The two vulnerabilities exploit the possibility of a side-channel attack of the processor.
A side-channel attack is any attack based on information acquired from the physical implementation of an information system. Timing information, energy consumption, electromagnetic losses or even sound can be exploited to break the system. By using statistical analysis of these physical operations, it is possible to obtain data from protected memory (for example passwords and cryptographic keys). It is not a simple attack to perform, and cannot be enabled remotely because the malicious code must be executed locally on the machine. It is still unclear whether it is really possible to corrupt or modify data.
You can find a lot of information about this matter on the Internet, but we still want to report some important comments obtained directly from our discussions with Intel:
- The attacker can observe the protected memory content, bypassing the level of privilege of the application.
- It exploits a flaw of speculative execution, common in all modern processors.
- It is not unique to a processor or on the implementation of a specific processor.
- It is not the result of a product that does not comply with the specifications.
- There are various techniques to mitigate the vulnerability, starting initially from the software and the operating system, then from the bios/firmware to finally arrive at a hardware redesign.
The impact on thin client devices
The vulnerability in thin client devices has less impact than other systems, because in thin devices, the information that is processed is the output of virtual machines, and therefore more difficult to interpret by an attacker.
Praim’s commitment to safety
At Praim we are always committed to keeping our products up-to-date, with a special attention to security. To repair the issue necessitates working in depth on the hardware system, which then requires a thorough testing phase to exclude the occurrence of collateral problems.
In our ThinOX 10 models we are working to provide an updated version of the operating system to fix the vulnerability as soon as possible. The Linux kernel community has already released some patches, which are being tested in our labs. In addition, Intel has provided a new version of the microcode for its CPUs, which is currently under test.
Windows 10 IoT and Windows 7 Embedded
Microsoft is releasing patches for its operating systems, which will be integrated into future versions of Windows 10 IoT and Windows 7 Embedded.
For customers who have older Windows devices and for which patching problems may arise, Praim recommends the use of ThinOX4PC, the software that installs the Linux-based Praim ThinOX operating system, extremely secure thanks to the total disk write security
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