First Fully Weaponized Spectre Exploit Discovered Online

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  1. RickAgresta

    RickAgresta Peanut, leader of the Peanutty Forces

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    The first fully weaponized exploit for the Spectre CPU vulnerability was uploaded on the malware-scanning website VirusTotal last month, marking the first time a working exploit capable of doing actual damage has entered the public domain.

    The exploit was discovered by French security researcher Julien Voisin. It targets Spectre, a major vulnerability that was disclosed in January 2018.

    According to its website, the Spectre bug is a hardware design flaw in the architectures of Intel, AMD, and ARM processors that allows code running inside bad apps to break the isolation between 4applications at the CPU level and then steal sensitive data from other apps running on the same system.

    The vulnerability, which won a Pwnie Award in 2018 for one of the best security bug discoveries of the year, was considered a milestone moment in the evolution and history of the modern CPU.

    Its discovery, along with the Meltdown bug, effectively forced CPU vendors to rethink their approach to designing processors, making it clear that they cannot focus on performance alone, to the detriment of data security.

    Software patches were released at the time, but the Meltdown and Spectre disclosures forced Intel to rethink its entire approach to CPU designs going forward.

    Initial Spectre PoCs were all benign
    At the time, the teams behind the Meltdown and Spectre bugs published their work in the form of research papers and some trivial proof-of-concept code to prove their attacks.

    Shortly after the Meltdown and Spectre publications, experts at AV-TEST, Fortinet, and Minerva Labs spotted a spike in VirusTotal uploads for both CPU bugs.

    While initially there was a fear that malware authors might be experimenting with the two bugs as a way to steal data from targeted systems, the exploits were classified as harmless variations of the public PoC code published by the Meltdown and Spectre researchers and no evidence was found of in-the-wild attacks.

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