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Top Linux developer on Intel chip security problems: ‘They’re not going away.’

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Greg Kroah-Hartman, the stable Linux kernel maintainer, could have prefaced his Open Source Summit Europe keynote speech, MDS, Fallout, Zombieland, and Linux, by paraphrasing Winston Churchill: I have nothing to offer but blood sweat and tears for dealing with Intel CPU’s security problems. 

Or as a Chinese developer told him recently about these problems: “This is a sad talk.” The sadness is that the same Intel CPU speculative execution problems, which led to Meltdown and Spectre security issues, are alive and well and causing more trouble.

The problem with how Intel designed speculative execution is that, while anticipating the next action for the CPU to take does indeed speed things up, it also exposes data along the way. That’s bad enough on your own server, but when it breaks down the barriers between virtual machines (VM)s in cloud computing environments, it’s a security nightmare.

Kroah-Hartman said, “These problems are going to be with us for a very long time, they’re not going away. They’re all CPU bugs, in some ways they’re all the same problem,” but each has to be solved in its own way. “MDS, RDDL, Fallout, Zombieland: They’re all variants of the same basic problem.”

And they’re all potentially deadly for your security: “RIDL and Zombieload, for example, can steal data across applications, virtual machines, even secure enclaves. The last is really funny, because [Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX)] is what supposed to be secure inside Intel ships” [but, it turns out it’s] really porous. You can see right through this thing.”
 
To fix each problem as it pops up, you must patch both your Linux kernel and your CPU’s BIOS and microcode. This is not a Linux problem; any operating system faces the same problem. 

OpenBSD, a BSD Unix devoted to security first and foremost, Kroah-Hartman freely admits was the first to come up with what’s currently the best answer for this class of security holes: Turn Intel’s simultaneous multithreading (SMT) off and deal with the performance hit. Linux has adopted this method. 

But it’s not enough. You must secure the operating system as each new way to exploit hyper-threading appears. For Linux, that means flushing the CPU buffers every time there’s a context switch (e.g. when the CPU stops running one VM and starts another).

You can probably guess what the trouble is. Each buffer flush takes a lot of time, and the more VMs, containers, whatever, you’re running, the more time you lose.

How bad are these delays? It depends on the job. Kroah-Hartman said he spends his days writing and answering emails. That activity only takes a 2% performance hit. That’s not bad at all. He also is always building Linux kernels. That takes a much more painful 20% performance hit. Just how bad will it be for you? The only way to know is to benchmark your workloads. 

Of course, it’s up to you, but as Kroah-Hartman said, “The bad part of this is that you now must choose: Performance or security. And that is not a good option.” It’s also, he reminded the developer-heavy crowd, which choice your cloud provider has made for you.

But wait! The bad news keeps coming. You must update your Linux kernel and patch your microcode as each Intel-related security update comes down the pike. The only way to be safe is to run the latest CanonicalDebianRed Hat, or SUSE distros, or the newest long-term support Linux kernel. Kroah-Hartman added, “If you are not using a supported Linux distribution kernel or a stable/long term kernel, you have an insecure system.”

So, on that note, you can look forward to constantly updating your operating system and hardware until the current generation of Intel processors are in antique shops. And you’ll be stuck with poor performance if you elect to put security ahead of speed. Fun, fun, fun!

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/top-linux-developer-on-intel-chip-security-problems-theyre-not-going-away/

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Security

Firm introduces new cyberthreat detection service

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Sophos, a global leader in network and endpoint security, has announced the availability of a fully managed threat hunting, detection and response service, called Sophos Managed Threat Response.

The firm said the re-sellable service would provide organisations with a dedicated 24/7 security team to neutralise the most sophisticated and complex threats.

According to a statement, these threats include active attackers leveraging fileless attacks and administrator tools such as PowerShell to escalate privileges, exfiltrate data and spread laterally.

“Attacks like these are difficult to detect since they involve an active adversary using legitimate tools for nefarious purposes, and Sophos MTR helps eliminate this threat,” it said.

The Chief Technology Officer at Sophos, Joe Levy, said cybercriminals were adapting their methods and increasingly launching hybrid attacks that combined automation with interactive human ingenuity to more effectively evade detection.

He said, “Once they gain a foothold, they’ll employ ‘living off the land’ techniques and other deceptive methods requiring human interaction to discover and disrupt their attacks.

“For the most part, other managed detection and response services simply notify customers of potential threats and then leave it up to them to manage things from there.

“Sophos MTR not only augments internal teams with additional threat intelligence, unparalleled product expertise, and round-the-clock coverage, but also gives customers the option of having a highly trained team of response experts take targeted actions on their behalf to neutralise even the most sophisticated threats.”

Source:
https://punchng.com/firm-introduces-new-cyberthreat-detection-service/

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Google now treats iPhones as physical security keys

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The latest update to Google’s Smart Lock app on iOS means you can now use your iPhone as a physical 2FA security key for logging into Google’s first-party services in Chrome. Once it’s set up, attempting to log in to a Google service on, say, a laptop, will generate a push notification on your nearby iPhone. You’ll then need to unlock your Bluetooth-enabled iPhone and tap a button in Google’s app to authenticate before the login process on your laptop completes. The news was first reported by 9to5Google.

Two-factor authentication is one of the most important steps you can take to secure your online accounts, and provides an additional layer of security beyond a standard username and password. Physical security keys are much more secure than the six digit codes that are in common use today, since these codes can be intercepted almost as easily as passwords themselves. Google already lets you use your Android phone as a physical security key, and now that the functionality is available on iOS it means that anyone with a smartphone now owns a security key without having to buy a dedicated device.

Attempting to log in to a Google service will send a push notification to your phone over Bluetooth.

The new process is similar to the existing Google Prompt functionality, but the key difference is that Smart Lock app works over Bluetooth, rather than connecting via the internet. That means your phone will have to be in relatively close proximity to your laptop for the authentication to work, which provides another layer of security. However, the app itself doesn’t ask for any biometric authentication — if your phone is already unlocked then a nearby attacker could theoretically open the app and authenticate the login attempt.

According to one cryptogopher working at Google, the new functionality makes use of the iPhone processor’s Secure Enclave, which is used to securely store the device’s private keys. The feature was first introduced with the iPhone 5S, and Google’s app says that it requires iOS 10 or later to function.

The new iPhone support appears to be limited to authenticating Google logins from the Chrome browser. When we attempted to use an iPhone to authenticate a login of the same service (we tested with Gmail) using Safari on a MacBook, we were prompted to insert our key fob (which we don’t have), meaning it created an extra step in our login process where we had to pick an alternative 2FA option.

Source:
https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/15/21066768/google-iphone-ios-security-key-2-factor-authentication

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Samsung made a fingerprint-secured portable SSD

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Portable SSDs have become quite popular lately but only a handful of them offer proper security so Samsung is taking matters into its own hands by introducing the T7 Touch with fingerprint reader identification. This way you can rest assured that your sensitive data is safe even if you misplace the actual drive.

Samsung made a fingerprint-secured portable SSD

The T7 Touch succeeds the T5 from last year by offering a capacitive fingerprint scanner and AES 256-bit hardware encryption and password for added security. Moreover, the T7 Touch boasts about 1 GB/s read and 1 GB/s read speeds, which is almost twice as fast as its predecessor.

Connectivity options include USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A while the connector of the device supports 10Gbps speeds over USB 3.2 (Gen 2).

The T7 Touch comes in three flavors – 500GB for $129, 1TB for $229 and 2TB for $399 with planned availability this month. The available paint jobs of the titanium case are black and silver and the whole thing weighs just 58 grams.

Source:
https://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_made_a_fingerprintsecured_portable_ssd-news-40949.php

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