MIT study finds flaw in Apple's M1 chip that cannot be patched

MIT examine finds flaw in Apple’s M1 chip that can’t be patched

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Researchers say the Pacman {hardware} assault may very well be used to have an effect on a ‘majority’ of cell and desktop gadgets over the following few years.

In keeping with MIT researchers, Apple’s M1 processor chip has been discovered to have an unpatched {hardware} vulnerability that would enable an attacker to bypass safety mechanisms.

The vulnerability pertains to pointer authentication within the M1 chip, which detects and protects in opposition to sudden modifications to pointers in reminiscence.

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Pointer authentication works by offering a particular CPU instruction that provides a cryptographic signature (often known as a PAC) to the unused high-order bits of a pointer earlier than storing the pointer. The CPU interprets the authentication failure as reminiscence corruption, inflicting the pointer to grow to be invalid and crash.

Nonetheless, researchers on the MIT Pc Science and Synthetic Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created a {hardware} assault methodology that leaks validation outcomes by means of a “micro-architecture facet channel” with out inflicting a battle. This enables an attacker to bypass the protection.

In a brand new analysis report, the workforce says a brand new {hardware} assault referred to as Pacman exploits a vulnerability in speculative execution, a performance-enhancing function present in most chips to assist bypass reminiscence defenses. As a result of the assault makes use of a {hardware} mechanism, it can’t be patched.

“The {hardware} mechanism utilized by Pac-Man can’t be patched by software program features, however reminiscence corruption bugs could be patched,” the MIT researchers stated in an connected submit.

Whereas the {hardware} assault was being examined on the Apple M1 chip, the researchers famous that the assault may very well be used in opposition to different {hardware} utilizing Arm pointer authentication and future Arm processors.

“With out mitigation, our assault will have an effect on most cell gadgets, and probably desktop gadgets,” the researchers stated.

Apple stated in a press release to The Hacker Information:

Apple added, “Based mostly on our evaluation and the small print shared by our researchers, we’ve concluded that this subject doesn’t pose a direct danger to customers and is inadequate by itself to bypass working system safety protections,” Apple added.

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