Security researchers discovered a new set of vulnerabilities in Intel chips that go back to 2011, including the chips that have been used in Apple devices.
Nearly every computer using an Intel chip dating back to 2011 are said to be affected by the vulnerabilities. Unlike previous attacks like this (Meltdown and Spectre) AMD and ARM chips are not said to be vulnerable.
ZombieLoad takes its name from a “zombie load,” an amount of data that the processor can’t understand or properly process, forcing the processor to ask for help from the processor’s microcode to prevent a crash. Apps are usually only able to see their own data, but this bug allows that data to bleed across those boundary walls. ZombieLoad will leak any data currently loaded by the processor’s core, the researchers said. Intel said patches to the microcode will help clear the processor’s buffers, preventing data from being read.
Researchers showed the flaw in a proof-of-concept video that showed how the flaws could be exploited to see which websites a person is visiting in real-time. The flaw could be used to grab passwords or access tokens used to log into a target’s online accounts.
While no attacks have been publicly reported, researchers say they couldn’t rule out that any had already happened, as such attacks wouldn’t necessarily leave a trace.
The average user shouldn’t panic about “ZombieLoad” as Gruss said it was “easier than Spectre” but “more difficult than Meltdown” to exploit. Both of those attacks require a specific set of skills and effort to perform an attack.
Mac users need only to install yesterday’s macOS updates and they’ll be covered.