Intel Core 2 Duo Vulnerabilities Serious say Theo de Raadt

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The scariest type of all, hardware vulnerabilities. Security guru and creator of OpenBSD Theo de Raadt recently announced he had found some fairly serious bugs in the hardware architecture of Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

He goes as far as saying avoid buying a C2D processor until these problems are fixed.

A prominent software developer with a reputation for making waves in coding circles is doing it again – this time warning that Intel’s celebrated Core 2 Duo is vulnerable to security attacks that target known bugs in the processor.

Discussion forums on Slashdot and elsewhere were ablaze with comments responding to the claims made by Theo de Raadt, who is the founder of OpenBSD. Intel strongly discounted the report, saying engineers have thoroughly scanned the processor for vulnerabilities.

In it he warns that errata contained in the Intel processor is susceptible to security exploits that put users and enterprises at serious risk of being compromised. The exposure can exist even in cases where Intel has issued a fix, de Raadt said, because patches in the microcode frequently don’t get installed on systems purchased from smaller vendors or that run less popular operating systems.

“At this time, I cannot recommend purchase of any machines based on the Intel Core 2 until these issues are dealt with (which I suspect will take more than a year),” de Raadt concluded in his post to an OpenBSD discussion group.

The main problem being, these kind of issues cannot be fixed on a software level they need some re-engineering of the actual chips themselves and due to the nature of hardware vulnerabilities it means they can be exploited on any OS.

Many of the bugs lead to potentially dangerous buffer overflow in which write-protected or non-execute bits for a page table entry are ignored. Others involve floating point instruction non-coherencies or memory corruptions. Intel is aware of the security implications, but has yet to disclose them, he said in an interview.

Intel engineers and some outside security researchers disagree with de Raadt’s conclusion, but the implications of them being correct are serious. Thanks to its high performance and plentiful supply, the Core 2 Duo is seemingly everywhere – in Macs, phone switches and PCs running a wide variety of operating systems.

What’s more, a vulnerability in the processor could be exploited regardless of the OS it runs, and if the flaw resides in the silicon itself, the traditional remedy of pushing out a software patch could be rendered ineffective.

You can find 105 Core 2 errata here as published by Intel:

Core 2 Duo errata [PDF]

And the original e-mail from Theo here:

Intel Core 2

Source: The Register

Posted in: Exploits/Vulnerabilities, Hardware Hacking, UNIX Hacking

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11 Responses to Intel Core 2 Duo Vulnerabilities Serious say Theo de Raadt

  1. moons July 18, 2007 at 7:41 am #

    very interesting, exploiting through hardware vulnerabilities, lucky for me i got my AMD X2 some time back.

    it seems to me though that intel is now busy with CYA (cover-your-***), as the link for Core 2 Errata published by intel shows up with

    Page Not Found

    The page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Please check the address bar to make sure the link is typed correctly, use the links below to locate the information you want, or search the site for another destination.

  2. Bogwitch July 18, 2007 at 11:50 am #

    Looks like there has been a document revision.

    http://download.intel.com/design/processor/specupdt/31327915.pdf

  3. SN July 18, 2007 at 1:00 pm #

    now this is real news … wow

  4. moons July 18, 2007 at 1:02 pm #

    Ah yes, my bad then. Though i got to admit, to some extent, i’ve always been a little harsh on them, probably cause they’re sort of the main processor company.

    What i’m curious about though is more towards how they are actually gonna solve the problem. From the looks of whats been said, it definately is gonna be a long one.

  5. Sandeep Nain July 19, 2007 at 3:35 am #

    Ohh man…. this is unbelievable..
    is there anyone whom we can trust… Leaders like intel are making such big mistakes instead of making their product quality a benchmark fore rest.

  6. backbone July 19, 2007 at 7:18 pm #

    Well sandeep you must understand that we all are ppl… and ppl make mistakes… to many in this case, but maybe they hired a fresh graduated team =))

  7. Sandeep Nain July 20, 2007 at 12:21 am #

    Hey backbone,
    I fully agree with you that to err is human and we all are humans. But the point i wanna raise here is… intel is a world renowned brand for its quality processors. and im sure that they have rigorous testing procedures and they test each and every product before they send it to market. and still this was overlooked..

    well yeah probably they hired a fresh graduate team.. i remember making bigger mistakes than this when i was a graduate. .

  8. zupakomputer March 19, 2008 at 1:22 pm #

    What’s the latest on this – does it affect the Penyrns?

  9. Pantagruel March 19, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    If you check the intel specs sheets (errata section) you will find some of the same errors as the C2D ‘sports’ .

  10. zupakomputer March 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm #

    So they just leave some of them in there for easier access to any system sporting those CPUs. A fine plan! If you go undercover and secure a priviledged job there, you get to discover that the machines make them do it as part of their future AI expansion programme.

  11. James C March 20, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    Let not forget his real name is Theo de Ahole.
    He is the biggest asshole in the hole open source community.