SGX, Intel’s supposedly impregnable data fortress, has been compromised again

SGX, Intel's supposedly impregnable data fortress, has been compromised again


Intel’s latest generation of CPUs contains a security flaw that allows attackers to obtain encryption keys and other confidential information protected by the company’s software protection extension, an advanced feature that works like a digital vault for the most sensitive secrets of secure users.

Abbreviated as SGX, the protection is designed to provide the kind of bastion to securely protect encryption keys and other sensitive data, even if the operating system or virtual machine running on top is compromised. maliciously committed. SGX works by creating a trusted execution environment that protects sensitive code and the data it operates on from being monitored or tampered with by anything else on the system.

Cracks in Intel’s Platform Security

SGX is a security platform that many companies provide to users. The servers used to handle contact discovery for Signal Messenger, for example, rely on SGX to ensure the process is anonymous. Signal speak running its advanced hashing program provides a “general formula for performing private contact discovery in SGX without leaking any information to parties with control of the machine, even if they attach physical hardware to the memory bus.”

The example is purely hypothetical. Signal spokesman Jun Harada wrote in an email: “Intel informed us of this article… and we were able to verify that the CPUs Signal uses are not affected by these issues. detection of this paper and is therefore not vulnerable. “

The key to SGX’s assurance of security and authenticity is that it generates what is known as “coverage”, or secure blocks of memory. Encrypted content is encrypted before leaving the processor and written to RAM. They are only decrypted after they come back. SGX’s job is to protect enclave memory and block access to its contents by anything other than the trusted part of the CPU.

Enter PIC Leak

Since 2018, researchers have discovered at least seven critical security vulnerabilities in SGX, some of which completely undermine Intel’s guarantees about them. On Tuesday, a research paper publicly identified a new vulnerability that also completely breaks SGX warranties in most 10th, 11th, and 12th Gen Intel CPUs. chip says it has released mitigations that prevent the researchers’ proof-of-concept mining from no longer working. Researchers will present their findings on Wednesday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

The list shows which Intel CPUs are vulnerable.
Enlarge / The list shows which Intel CPUs are vulnerable.

Borrello et al.

The hole is in APIC, which stands for Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller. APIC is a mechanism built into many modern CPUs for routing and management interrupt, are signals generated by hardware or software that cause the CPU to stop the current task so that it can handle the higher priority event. The researchers who discovered this vulnerability have named the vulnerability and their proof-of-concept exploit as ÆPIC Leak.

Overview of ÆPIC Leak.
Enlarge / Overview of ÆPIC Leak.

Borrello et al.

The bug that makes PIC Leak possible is the so-called read uninitialized memory, which occurs when the amount of memory is not cleared after the CPU has finished processing, causing a leak of old data that is no longer needed. Unlike previous CPU failures with names like Ghost, Meltdown, Forecastand RIDL / Fallout / ZombieLoad—It is the result of creating a temporary execution sub channel revealed private data — ÆPIC Leak is an architectural flaw that resides in the CPU itself.

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