If you have been following our coverage regarding the recent security issues found in AMD’s processors and chipsets by security research firm CTS-Labs, it has been a bit of a doozy. Today AMD is posting on their website, in the form of a blog post, the results from their initial analysis, despite CTS-Labs only giving them 1-day notice, rather than the industry standard 60/90-days, as they felt that these were too important and expected AMD to fix them in a much longer timescale. Despite this attitude, AMD’s blog post dictates that all the issues found can be patched and mitigated in the next few weeks without any performance degradation.

The salient high-level takeaway from AMD is this:

  1. All the issues can be confirmed on related AMD hardware, but require Admin Access at the metal
  2. All the issues are set to be fixed within weeks, not months, through firmware patches and BIOS updates
  3. No performance impact expected
  4. None of these issues are Zen-specific, but relate to the PSP and ASMedia chipsets.
  5. These are not related to the GPZ exploits earlier this year.

AMD’s official statement is as follows:

Initial AMD Technical Assessment of CTS Labs Research

On March 12, 2018, AMD received a communication from CTS Labs regarding research into security vulnerabilities involving some AMD products. Less than 24 hours later, the research firm went public with its findings. Security and protecting users’ data is of the utmost importance to us at AMD and we have worked rapidly to assess this security research and develop mitigation plans where needed. This is our first public update on this research, and will cover both our technical assessment of the issues as well as planned mitigation actions.

The security issues identified by the third-party researchers are not related to the AMD “Zen” CPU architecture or the Google Project Zero exploits made public Jan. 3, 2018. Instead, these issues are associated with the firmware managing the embedded security control processor in some of our products (AMD Secure Processor) and the chipset used in some socket AM4 and socket TR4 desktop platforms supporting AMD processors.

As described in more detail below, AMD has rapidly completed its assessment and is in the process of developing and staging the deployment of mitigations. It’s important to note that all the issues raised in the research require administrative access to the system, a type of access that effectively grants the user unrestricted access to the system and the right to delete, create or modify any of the folders or files on the computer, as well as change any settings. Any attacker gaining unauthorized administrative access would have a wide range of attacks at their disposal well beyond the exploits identified in this research. Further, all modern operating systems and enterprise-quality hypervisors today have many effective security controls, such as Microsoft Windows Credential Guard in the Windows environment, in place to prevent unauthorized administrative access that would need to be overcome in order to affect these security issues. A useful clarification of the difficulties associated with successfully exploiting these issues can be found in this posting from Trail of Bits, an independent security research firm who were contracted by the third-party researchers to verify their findings.

Mark Papermaster,
Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

This is followed by a table describing the issues, stating that each issue can be solved by BIOS/firmware updates in the coming weeks. AMD is also set to provide additional updates on the analysis of the issues and mitigation plans over that time. AMD is also prominent about addressing the security issues only, over any others that might have been discussed.

Source: AMD

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  • chobao - Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - link

    yay yippie..thanks ian
  • Alistair - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    Honestly I think Ian's work on this issue is some of the best journalism he's ever done. Bravo!

    Pretty interesting to see this kind of nefarious behaviour out in the open.
  • halcyon - Friday, March 23, 2018 - link

    Indeed .
    I wonder if any mfg is willing to comment about these exploits in relation to upgoming chipset versions?
  • chobao - Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - link

    wait..why did CTS spin it in a different way...like a more malicious way
  • iter - Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - link

    Garbage being garbage...
  • iwod - Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - link

    I dont think CTS are garbage to be honest, it is malicious, but I will give them the benefits of doubt. ( For now )

    What is trillion times worst, are those moron ( I am not even sure if they are really moron any more, or they are actually paid to troll ) crying foul saying ( shouting ) this thing is real. AMD has a serious problem, just as much as Intel Spectre, CTS did it right in zero day. And we are focusing too much on CTS and not AMD's problem, it doesn't matter If you need ADMIN access, these are real Bug. AMD Only ( No mention of ASMedia )....

    And insults Ian for all his hard work, calling him bias, AMD Fanboy......

    But Ian being well educated and British, remains calm and gentleman, sorry if this sound too cheesy, but if I was in his position reading those crap on twitter and comments I would have raged more then a thousand times. So I just told Ian to block him. Peace.

  • iter - Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - link

    It was completely blown out of proportion. Give it 1% of the severity they tried to insinuate that would be generous.

    They don't appear to be all that intelligent either, judging by how lousily they executed their scheme, despite hiring professional help in attempts to buy credibility.

    It certainly takes a significant amount of intellect to pinpoint those issues. And there is not a shred of intellect present in the pathetic stunt they made out of it. Which brings up the question, did they really discover those issues, or was it a handout from a third party?
  • looncraz - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    These "exploits" are on the level of what 16-year old me was doing.

    "Oh look, dad! I 'hacked' my BIOS and now I can change what it says in my BIOS and execute code before Windows starts!"

    Yeah, for real, I did that in... like... 1997 or 1998.
  • peevee - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    "Give it 1% of the severity they tried to insinuate that would be generous."

  • iwod - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    um....Apparently you are the only one reading my comment correctly......

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