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Vulnerabilities / Threats

9/12/2019
01:30 PM
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NetCAT Vulnerability Is Out of the Bag

Researchers discover a side-channel vulnerability that exploits the network performance-enhancing capabilities of recent Intel server CPUs.

A new side-channel vulnerability it out, but this one comes with a twist: Rather than exploiting weaknesses in speculative execution routines within the CPU, the vulnerability — named NetCAT by the researchers who found it — uses performance-enhancing networking capabilities to potentially leak information transmitted during an SSH-protected session.

NetCAT, discovered by Michael Kurth, Ben Gras, Dennis Andriesse, Cristiano Giuffrida, Herbert Bos, and Kaveh Razavi, of ETH Zurich, Switzerland, takes advantage of Data-Direct I/O (DDIO), a feature of recent Intel server-grade CPUs that allows peripherals to read/write from/to the fast (last-level) cache. It was introduced to improve performance of servers in high-speed network environments.

With NetCAT, an attacker on a remote system can, by merely sending packets to the targeted server, get information on the arrival timing of packets sent by a third system. After processing that information with statistical routines, an accurate decoding of text being typed on the third system can be created.

Intel has acknowledged the validity of the vulnerability and paid a bounty to the researchers. It recommends customers disable DDIO, which is enabled by default, to mediate the vulnerability.

Read more here and here.

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tdsan
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tdsan,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2019 | 2:05:32 PM
Interesting

DDIO, or Direct Data I/O, is an Intel-exclusive performance enhancement that allows NICs to directly access a processor's L3 cache, completely bypassing the a server's RAM, to increase NIC performance and lower latencies. Cybersecurity researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and ETH Zurich, in a research paper published on Tuesday, have discovered a critical vulnerability with DDIO that allows compromised servers in a network to steal data from every other machine on its local network. This include the ability to obtain keystrokes and other sensitive data flowing through the memory of vulnerable servers. This effect is compounded in data centers that have not just DDIO, but also RDMA (remote direct memory access) enabled, in which a single server can compromise an entire network. RDMA is a key ingredient in shoring up performance in HPCs and supercomputing environments. Intel in its initial response asked customers to disable DDIO and RDMA on machines with access to untrusted networks, while it works on patches - https://www.techpowerup.com/forums/threads/new-netcat-vulnerability-exploits-ddio-on-intel-xeon-processors-to-steal-data.259096/

 

Wow, it seems that Intel has more issues that once identified, I think I may need to start looking at Power9 processors from IBM and then disable this feature on my own network. My only concern is that we have a number of cloud servers that are in the wild that could be affected.

The plot thickens.


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