Spectre-related vulnerability cracks open Intel’s Software Guard Extension like a nut

Intel’s Software  Gaurd Extension (SGX) is Intel’s technology for application developers who are seeking to protect select code and data from disclosure or modification by creating secure enclaves, which are protected areas of execution in memory. Application code can be put into an enclave by special instructions and software made available to developers via the Intel SGX SDK. The SDK is a collection of APIs, libraries, documentation, sample source code, and tools that allow software developers to create and debug applications enabled for Intel SGX in C and C++.

Code executed in SGX remains protected even when the BIOS, VMM, operating system, and drivers are compromised, implying that an attacker with full execution control over the platform can be kept at bay.  The hardware-based technology could be used to protect decryption code for example even when a PC is compromised.

Unfortunately, it appears that, despite all the protections that Intel enabled, data protected by SGX remains vulnerable to a modified version of the Spectre speculative execution side channel attack.

Dubbed SgxPectre,  Ohio State University researchers have published a research paper showing the vulnerability is real, leaving Intel scrambling for a fix.

Intel responded by saying in a statement:

“We are aware of the research paper from Ohio State and have previously provided information and guidance online about how Intel SGX may be impacted by the side channel analysis vulnerabilities. We anticipate that the existing mitigations for Spectre and Meltdown, in conjunction with an updated software development toolkit for SGX application providers — which we plan to begin making available on March 16th — will be effective against the methods described in that research. We recommend customers make sure they are always using the most recent version of the toolkit.”

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities have turned the security world upside down this year, but fortunately, there has so far been no reports of exploits using the technology in the wild.

The full paper can be read here.

Via ZDNet, Neowin

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