It took some time, but now it’s here: The first real exploit that exploits the vulnerability in processors known as Specter has now been sighted in the wild.
Specter was first described in January 2018. This is a very complex vulnerability that attaches to an algorithm that is responsible for the high performance of modern CPUs. The processors use unused areas to perform speculative calculations – tasks that will likely have to be done soon anyway. The results are then already available when they are required by the program. This method can accelerate up to a third.
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However, the process also carries the risk that attackers can work their way into the innermost memory areas and then read out sensitive information such as passwords or crypto keys from the main memory. So far, however, such attacks have only been described in the context of security research or implemented as proof-of-concept malware. Because they are extremely complex to implement.
Origin in a training weapon
So it took until today for an exploit to actually emerge that was not part of the research. He was discovered by the French security specialist Julien Voisin, reports The Record. The malicious code is now also available to the security industry for further analysis via the VirusTotal malware platform. And because of this, the origin was found relatively quickly.
Accordingly, the exploit was not developed entirely by criminal groups. Rather, the actual code with which the vulnerability was exploited comes from Immunity, which has been offering it for some time as part of its canvas tools for penetration tests. The version that has now emerged, which is out in the wild, is probably a cracked variant of this exploit, which can now also be used independently of the Immunity product. The cracked versions should have been available in some closed Telegram groups since last October.
In the meantime, however, they have also leaked out of this very limited environment and are circulating in various other channels. So it shouldn’t be long before the code is also used in forest and meadow malware. Ransomware groups, in particular, could be interested in the exploit, for example in order to be able to hijack encrypted data and demand corresponding ransom money. Users should therefore pay particular attention to installing the latest patches from their system manufacturer because there is no simple bug fix against Specter, but the CPU manufacturers are always delivering new microcode updates to keep attackers at bay.
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