back to article Meltdown, Spectre: The password theft bugs at the heart of Intel CPUs

The severe design flaw in Intel microprocessors that allows sensitive data, such as passwords and crypto-keys, to be stolen from memory is real – and its details have been revealed. On Tuesday, we warned that a blueprint blunder in Intel's CPUs could allow applications, malware, and JavaScript running in web browsers, to …

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Can you clarify?

Can you clarify what you mean by all out-of-order execution Intel processors?

I havent heard that terminology before. Are we talking i3/i5/i7 processors? Or just older processors?

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Re: Can you clarify?

All out of order execution Intel processors means everything from Pentium Pro on, the only exceptions newer than that are Itanium and Intel Atoms older than 2013, both of which are in-order execution only.

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Re: Can you clarify?

Out-of-order execution

In computer engineering, out-of-order execution (or more formally dynamic execution) is a paradigm used in most high-performance microprocessors to make use of instruction cycles that would otherwise be wasted by a certain type of costly delay.

...

In 1990s, out-of-order execution became more common, and was featured in the IBM/Motorola PowerPC 601 (1993), Fujitsu/HAL SPARC64 (1995), Intel Pentium Pro (1995), MIPS R10000 (1996), HP PA-8000 (1996), AMD K5 (1996) and DEC Alpha 21264 (1998). Notable exceptions to this trend include the Sun UltraSPARC, HP/Intel Itanium, Transmeta Crusoe, Intel Atom until Silvermont Architecture, and the IBM POWER6.

...

The Intel 'Core' architecture (i3's, i5's, i7's etc) are basically a derivation of the Pentium Pro that, as per the referenced wikipedia page, introduced out-of-order execution in 1995.

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Thumb Up

Re: Can you clarify?

Cheers guys! :)

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WTF?

Re: Can you clarify?

"Notable exceptions to this trend include the Sun UltraSPARC ..."

Wait... you mean my stack of old Sun kit has suddenly turned into a goldmine?

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ST
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Stop

Re: Can you clarify?

> Notable exceptions to this trend include the Sun UltraSPARC

Not true. See this link and this link and this link [Warning: last two URLs are PDF].

Dynamic branch prediction, instruction prefetch+decode and speculative execution were first introduced in the UltraSPARC-IIi.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can you clarify?

These CPU are well out of order

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Error in article

These have been grouped into two logo'd and branded vulnerabilities: Meltdown (Variants 1 and 2), and Spectre (Variant 3).

Other way around, based on the preceding CVE list, it should be "Spectre (Variants 1 and 2), and Meltdown (Variant 3)."

Can't use the corrections link when I don't have an email client installed...

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Re: Error in article

Also grouping two variants under one name allows Intel PR to work their magic and claim others are affected by the same thing too.

Well some AMD CPUs are affected in a non-standard kernel.configuration but the fix for that variant doesn't slow down kernel system calls as much.

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Extraction rate is a function of RAM capacity.

If the extraction rate is a function of RAM capacity, then there must be a benefit in Increasing RAM, just like bit lengths are increased to improve resistance to brute force in security functions.

Cloud vendors and virtualisation providers stack machines high with RAM to get better consolidation ratios, so does it follow they are better protected ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Extraction rate is a function of RAM capacity.

Given that large amounts of RAM are used to cram in many virtual machines, I'd say they're not "better protected", in fact quite the opposite. You'd have a single physical attack surface containing many machines which can be compromised, which in turn represent many more virtual attack vectors. It might take you longer to dump the physical hosts entire memory, but you'd get access to many more VMs for your increased effort. Also consider that one VM owned by one customer could potentially dump out memory of another customers machine that just happens to be running on the same physical host.

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Re: Extraction rate is a function of RAM capacity.

Think you missed the point I was trying to make. The volume of data is higher, therefore it will take more time to get anything useful out, hence slowing down the attack. Sifting the useful bits from the non-useful bits takes more time again and who's to say that the couple of bytes you got from VM1 and couple from VM27 are any good without the rest that has not been recovered yet.

I accept that it doesn't fix the problem, but it would buy a lot of time.

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Re: Extraction rate is a function of RAM capacity.

Dwarf, you're thinking like a monk transcribing the Bible. The printing press was invented and then the computer. It's not going to take a computer very long to sniff out the password and keys from a big memory dump.

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Pint

Good stuff!

Maybe there will be a Hollywood movie.

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Re: Good stuff!

UPLOAD VIRUS

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good stuff!

Bleeep Bleeeep KLAXON

"Our firewall is getting penetrated"

"Fsck, I should haven bought Intel gear, I KNEW that discount was suspicious. Help me type on this keyboard, fast!!"

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Trollface

Re: Good stuff!

Hollywood movie? Don't be silly, they'd just be wasting their time and money, nothing can top the film "Hackers" for its computer hacking realism!

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Re: Good stuff!

Hackers was a great documentary, I always ensure the brightness on my terminal is sufficiently bright to project onto my face.

Also I've seen that War Games is getting a remake, that should be stopped at once.

Maybe Intel can help.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good stuff!

Maybe a class B movie for TV.

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Coat

Re: Good stuff!

Those NCIS & Castle clips have it all wrong, this is how modern day hacking scenes should be played out, as demonstrated by The Shatner:

Blinking and beeping and flashing!

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Re: Good stuff!

Maybe there will be a Hollywood movie.

With billboard sized computer screens and passwords written in size 128.

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MrT
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Re: Good stuff!

But where's the Unix expert when you need one?

Cool...

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Re: Good stuff!

@Matthew 17

Also I've seen that War Games is getting a remake, that should be stopped at once.
Starring Kim Jung Un and Donald Trump. This time it will be for real. And there will be no winner.

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Re: Good stuff!

Remember that Sweeney episode with the hackers?

Seemed utter science fiction at the time and see how Regan scoffed at the idea of computer crime being of any importance.

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Re: Good stuff!

Don't be such a silly goose. Of course there's going to be a winner. There's always a winner. We're going to be the winners too. Because our button is a lot bigger than Kim's is.

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Re: Good stuff!

From a Macintosh PowerBook

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Re: Good stuff!

Not clicking on the link, I knew it must be from Jurassic.. Classic!

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Intel CEO

And just before Christmas, who sold most of their stock in Intel? Intel's CEO.

www.fool.com/investing/2017/12/19/intels-ceo-just-sold-a-lot-of-stock.aspx

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Mushroom

Re: Intel CEO avoiding a personal hit. A dream scenario at best whenever regulators are bought.

Just a coincidence, A Non e-mouse ........ not.

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Anonymous Coward

'Who sold most of their stock in Intel?'

As per Equifux, any investigation will be internal, and will quickly rule that everything the CEO did was fine - nothing to see here!

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Re: Intel CEO

It was noted in another thread that executives have to give months of notice before trading their own shares, so this is probably innocent. On the other hand, the article indicates that the bug was reported last summer. I don't know how much notice is actually required, but it is possible that there are legitimate questions to answer.

However, whilst the impact of this bug is obvious to me, it may not be obvious to a CEO. If I went to *my* boss and said there is a flaw in almost every product we've produced in the last 20 years which is financially quantifiable (at least for cloud users, the impact of this bug *can* be measured in dollars) and is by design so we can be sued to pieces ... he might not believe me.

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Re: Intel CEO

The CEO didn't realise.

Think about it - the best fix is to replace the hardware.

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Anonymous Coward

"If I went to *my* boss and said there is a flaw"

That usually depends on who you are - what position you hold in the company, and of course, how much pointy-haired the boss is.

Anyway, usually bosses may listen when they hard words like "shares downfall" - "legal issues" - "recall and replacements", etc. etc. - even when they can't understand the technical details.

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MrT
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Re: 'Who sold most of their stock in Intel?'

The Intel CEO process was operating as designed...?

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Windows

Re: "If I went to *my* boss and said there is a flaw"

"words like "shares downfall" - "legal issues" - "recall and replacements", etc. "

I've found that the phrase "Legal liability of $xxx,xxx.xx per incident" really gets their attention.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Intel CEO

Noted that the reporter was extreamly suspicious of his motives even back then.

Can you get more blatent insider trading? This guy should stripped of his shares not allowed to profit from them.

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Coat

Re: Intel CEO

As has been quipped elsewhere: Intel Inside(R) trading

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Re: Intel CEO

If it's not a coincidence, wouldn't that constitute insider trading?

(Genuine question)

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So... protected once again by sheer anti-establishment pig-headedness and obsolescence...? The just-pre-FX AMD Phenom II series doesn't seem to be mentioned in any context... :P

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Unhappy

Hold on.

Don't get too complacent.

From reading some comments and posts both here on El Reg and elsewhere it seems to me as if a blunderbus approach to fixing these snafus is being contemplated.

Even though AMD have said that their CPUs are only affected minimally from what I have read all CPUs will be targeted by the patches whether they need it or not. So that AMD and ARM will be slowed down as well as Intel stuff.

Now it may well be that I have got hold of the wrong end of the stick, and I hope I have, but if true then a lot of collateral damage will done and we will all suffer from this mess.

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Re: Hold on.

That's weird, I was under the distinct impression of having read about AMD submitting a patch explicitly to _prevent_ the "fix" activating on its processors. Granted, there's a bit too much confusion going around on what does what / affects precisely what / implies precisely what at the moment.

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Re: Hold on.

Your both asking the questions I'm interested in !!!

from what was in the article it seemed as if the researcher's were going out of their way to make it work on AMD and even when they could prove it possible it wasn't easy.

*Disclaimer I am a bit of a AMD fanboi, not so much that I don't imagine AMD are not affected by this just hoping not.

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Re: Hold on.

AMD are unaffected by Meltdown, but most (including the new Ryzens) are still vulnerable to Spectre. Spectre is harder to perform, but also much harder to patch.

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Re: Hold on.

"Your both asking the questions I'm interested in !!!"

The disabling of PTI (and associated performance impact) does not happen on AMD CPUs, in the Linux kernel fixes at least (can't speak to other affected OSes).

"from what was in the article it seemed as if the researcher's were going out of their way to make it work on AMD"

Rather the opposite, at least so far as Google's team is concerned: they state in their post "Our research was relatively Haswell-centric so far. It would be interesting to see details e.g. on how the branch prediction of other modern processors works and how well it can be attacked." They did test their PoC exploits against AMD CPUs, and state how badly they are affected by each one, but they appear to have focused on Haswell's design in actually *developing* the attacks.

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Anonymous Coward

Has the collective IQ of the tech world hit rock bottom?

Seems like we're sleepwalking to the greatest clusterfuck in tech history. Smart devices everywhere but no actual Smarts. Is there something in the water / air lowering IQ? Speaking of air, mines the PC getting air-gapped.

"A mega-gaffe by the semiconductor industry. As they souped up their CPUs to race them against each other, they left behind one thing: security."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Has the collective IQ of the tech world hit rock bottom?

It's the curse of the presentation layer people.

If it looks shiny, ship it. No matter whether it's fit for purpose, no matter whether it's got serious design flaws, which will inevitably come back to bite the purchasers and users in the backside, just ship it. And if anyone dares question the dominance of shiny over well-engineered, the heretics are defined as "not a team player".

Been that way for at least a couple of decades in quite a few "leading tech companies" and industry sectors. Companies and people that cared about decent engineering have largely vanished from the business.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Has the collective IQ of the tech world hit rock bottom?

Perhaps Facebook and smartphones are lowering IQ?

Also, "natural selection has not stopped": "genetic contributions to intelligence and educational achievement are currently disfavoured by natural selection. In evolutionary terms, it seems, humans are now brainy enough" (https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21732803-it-does-however-no-longer-seem-favour-braininess-data-half-million)

But it doesn't matter, because Artificial Intelligence will save us!

Air-gapping is a bit over-the-top. Disabling JavaScript should mostly solve the problem. Don't run untrusted code.

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Coat

Re: Has the collective IQ of the tech world hit rock bottom?

Seems like we're sleepwalking to the greatest clusterfuck in tech history. Smart devices everywhere but no actual Smarts. Is there something in the water / air lowering IQ? Speaking of air, mines the PC getting air-gapped.

Well, people are suffering from infocrap overload everywhere and a sociopath and Wall-Street driven sales cycle. But also...

The population-weighted cross-national mean IQ-score is 89.03, with SD of 12.89, for 123 nations. There are roughly 550,000 individuals in the included samples.

So people overall may not be as smart as they think.

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