Hardware

Academics from multiple universities have announced fixes for two severe security flaws known as Spectre and Rowhammer.

Both these fixes are at the software level, meaning they don't require CPU or RAM vendors to alter products, and could, in theory, be applied as basic software patches.

Spectre v1 fix for Linux

The first of these new mitigation mechanisms was announces on Thursday, last week. A research team from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire says it created a fix for Spectre Variant 1 (CVE-2017-5753), a vulnerability discovered at the start of the year affecting modern CPUs.

Their fix uses ELFbac, an in-house-developed Linux kernel patch that brings access control policies to runtime virtual memory accesses of Linux processes, at the level of ELF binary executables.

"The solution developed at Dartmouth uses ELFbac to securely partition a program's address space," researchers said. "This approach ensures that all data and code – including user secrets – are isolated from each other."

"The ELFbac policy approach denies access to Spectre and results in processing that is generally more secure," researchers added.

In an email to Bleeping Computer, a Dartmouth College spokesperson said the team is currently working on a paper to describe the research in more depth, and a dedicated website that will feature more details will be completed over the next couple of days.

Rowhammer software-level fix

The second fix for a major flaw announced last week came on Saturday from the Systems and Network Security Group at VU Amsterdam.

Researchers announced a new technique called ZebRAM that they said is a comprehensive software protection against Rowhammer attacks. No details are currently available about this new technique outside the tweet below and the name of an upcoming research paper.

Last month, the same research team revealed the latest variation of the Rowhammer attack, which they named RAMpage, and which they said it affects all the Android phones released since 2012.

Rowhammer attacks have been a problem since 2014. Researchers have discovered a wide range of methods for launching Rowhammer attacks, and defenses put in place between 2014 and 2016 have been proven to be incomplete in October 2017.

Red Hat releases Spectre v1 scanning tool

But besides mysterious upcoming mitigations, security researchers have also released a tool that detects if software programs contain code that makes them vulnerable to Spectre v1 attacks.

The tool was developed by engineers from Red Hat, and hence, like the ELFBac tool, is only meant for Linux systems.

The tool currently only supports the x86_64 and AArch64 architectures, according to a Red Hat blog post that also includes a small tutorial on how software devs can use it to detect areas of their code that could be exploited via Spectre v1.

Related Articles:

The Intel Microcode Boot Loader Protects Older CPUs From Spectre

Spectre and Meltdown Hardware Protection Added to Intel's 9th Gen CPUs

Intel 2018 Desktop Launch Tomorrow, 9th Gen CPUs Expected

iSH - An iOS Linux Shell for Your iPhone or iPad

Linux CryptoMiners Are Now Using Rootkits to Stay Hidden