Major security flaws found in AMD chips

AMD Vulnerabilities Map

The processors of AMD's EPYC, Ryzen Pro and Ryzen first required an gain to the administrative rights of the vulnerable computer.

A list of the potential AMD chip vulnerabilities, according to CTS-Labs.

The AMD Secure Processor is an ARM-based microprocessor that is included in but runs separately from the larger CPU and handles a variety of security-related operations including Secure Memory Encryption (SME), Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV) and Firmware Trusted Platform Module (fTPM). "An attacker could sit there for years without ever being detected".

Domain info for CTS Labs said the URL was just registered in June 2017 and Kevin Beaumont, a security researcher based in the United Kingdom, said there should be verification of CTS Labs before accepting the report as valid. The vulnerabilities have been code-named Masterkey, Ryzenfall, Fallout, and Chimera. "We are investigating this report, which we just received, to understand the methodology and merit of the findings", an AMD spokesman told CNET.

That access means attackers who have already successfully compromised a system could potentially place malicious code in such a way as to make it hard or impossible to detect or remove. Full details on each vulnerability can be found in CTS' 20-page whitepaper.

This had raised suspicions that CTS Labs may have a commercial motive for disclosing the AMD vulnerabilities so soon after notifying the chip maker.

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However, the disclaimer following the advisory states: "Although we have a good faith belief in our analysis and believe it to be objective and unbiased, you are advised that we may have, either directly or indirectly, an economic interest in the performance of the securities of the companies whose products are the subject of our reports". One short seller even published a report, referring to the flaws as crucial to AMD's business. While Guido asserts in a series of tweets that the vulnerabilities are real, he noted that he only accepted the initial request out of curiosity, and wound up billing CTS Labs the "week rate" after their questions about the vulnerabilities had increased.

Criticism has been aimed at the way the Israeli firm has publicized their findings. And CTS-Labs announced them immediately, rather than giving AMD the normal 90-day window to fix the flaws.

In the company's official statement on the issue, AMD claimed it was "unusual for a security firm to publish research to the press without providing a reasonable amount of time for the company to investigate and address its findings". On the other hand, it will also slow third-party experts in confirming the flaws and coming up with the fix.

This comes in sharp contrast to way the disclosure of the Meltdown and Spectre chip vulnerabilities were handled.

Which are the affected AMD CPUs?

As with the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, it will take time for the true nature of the risk to become clear, but already security commentators appear to be divided in their opinion. According to CTS Labs, it has still not heard anything from AMD, and researchers claim it could take months to fix the vulnerabilities, notes CNET. Given the complexity of Meltdown and Spectre, public disclosure was withheld for half a year to give the companies more time to diagnose the problem and develop a solution.


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