SMoTherSpectre: exploiting speculative execution through port contention

  • 7023746
  • 25-Feb-2019
  • 13-May-2019

Environment

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15

Situation

Researchers have identified a new side channel attack against CPUs, that allows local attackers able to execute code to gain information about other processes running on the same core.

Intel CPUs use various "ports" to delegate subtasks of computing. CPU Threads running on the same CPU core share the use of those ports, and while one is used it cannot be used by the other CPU thread.

This information can then be used to determine the operation running on the other CPU thread, for instance to detect cryptographic operations and get knowledge of cryptographic materials. 

Resolution

The recommendation for software mitigation is to implement and improve cryptographic and other secret data operations so that they do not expose different CPU port contention based on their input, by using constant time operations.

Most of the cryptographic libraries are already implemented in a way that they do not expose this kind of information. 

There will be ongoing work to cover more cases as they are identified.

Cause

External research paper : https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.01843

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