Googles discovered CPU vulnerabilities, and how it can affect you

Google is a forerunner in the online world for many aspects, but one of the main focuses of Google is security. Google has a “Project Zero” team dedicated to researching vulnerabilities their customers may be facing while also doing their best to provide solutions to the problems.

Last year the Project Zero team had come across a security flaw due to something called “speculative execution”, which is described as a technique used by most modern processors (CPUs) to optimize performance.

This security flaw is seen as a more serious flaw, due to it’s capabilities for leaking vulnerable information to an unknown party. Malicious persons may take advantage of the said vulnerability in the speculative execution process to read system memory that should otherwise be inaccessible. This may lead to the exposure of information such as passwords, encryption keys, or even sensitive information that is present in open applications. It was also noted that a virtual machine attacked through the vulnerabilities of speculative execution could also lead to access of physical memory in the host machine, further enhancing the dangers.

The affected CPUs are rather wide, but include AMD, ARM and Intel, as well as devices and OS running on those CPUs. Google has stated that the research team has updated their systems to defend against the speculative execution attacks, and cooperated with hardware and software manufacturers across the industry to protect a more broad range of technology and people. This cooperation has lead to mitigation of the affected from this form of attack.

Google has released a list of products and machines that have the mitigation and protection in place, the following are secured from the speculative execution attacks.

  • Android- Those with the latest security update are secure. Nexus and Pixel devices are also secure with the latest security update.
  • Google apps/ G Suite- no action needed
  • Google Chrome- There may be some necessary actions required on the users end. A link to the page is here
  • Google Cloud Platform- Google App engine is secure.
    Google Compute Engine: additional action required here
    Google Kubernetes Engine: additional action required here
    Google Cloud Dataflow: additional action required here
    Google Cloud Dataproc: additional action required here
  • All other Google Cloud products have been cleared and are secured.
  • Google Home/Chromecast -no action needed
  • Google Wifi/OnHub – no action needed

Google has stated that in order to take advantage of this new method of attack that uses speculative execution, the attacker must first run malicious code on the system they targeted.

Google has stated that there are three variants of the attack, which cant be mitigated with one method, but needs a specific method for all three attack variant. Some vendors have patches for one or two of the attack variants, and Google is working with them to ensure all three get mitigated over time.

It is good to know Google is helping to spread the necessary information for others to protect themselves against such a potentially dangerous attack! As for other means of protection, why not give us a call at Re2tech! We will ensure a strong security for your network and help teach you about your own system along the way! We make I.T. happen!

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