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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  • FireSnake - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    But, CTS-Labs stated that it will take years to fix. And said AMD needs to stop selling processors. What a load of crap!
  • crotach - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    I smell a lawsuit coming up, and not necessarily from AMD.

    Any troll can sue CTS now for exposing the security flaws without following industry practice and using due consideration.

    Not sure that being Israel-based is going to help them, US has strong ties with Israel :)
  • willis936 - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    The company was made in Israel precisely because they’re untouchable. Israel won’t extradite for murder, they certainly won’t for a white collar scapegoat.
  • SkyBill40 - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    To my knowledge, there is no hard and clearly defined "industry practice". 90 days seems to be the norm as exhibited by Google's disclosure of the Spectre and Meltdown issues, but there's nothing that says they had to wait as long as they did. It's more of a gentleman's agreement made in good faith and little else. Clearly what CTS Labs did broke that unwritten code by releasing 24 hours after, but nothing says they couldn't do so. Don't take that as giving CTS Labs a pass, because I certainly don't agree with what they chose to do and especially now seeing how the "flaws" were obviously overblown and easily resolved.
  • realistz - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    So you had AMD fanboys screaming out of their tongues that this was fake news. Now that it’s recognized as a legit problem...
  • jimbo2779 - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    Nobody said they weren't right in what they said could be done but they were very wrong in how they went about announcing it and massively exaggerated how bad this was.

    To execute these exploits you realistically need physical access to a machine, admin rights on the machine and a custom bios and drivers specifically for that machine. Also this affects lots of non AMD machines and is not a Ryzen problem but an As media problem. All things that are purposely downplayed by CTS labs.

    Some of the posts here look like trolling or schilling with their, assumedly, intentional ignorance on the subject
  • johnnyan - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    Not really, most "AMD fanboys" realized there are actual vulnerabilities behind all this. But they hated the way all this was done to harm AMD. The funny thing is, there is a good chance it will have to opposite effect...
  • deil - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    A) someone don't like AMD ?
    B) someone don't like ASmedia ?
    C) why no intel when all boards have ASmedia chips ?
    D) what amd did (or plan TODO to trigger such personal atack ?)
  • mr_tawan - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    'Ryzenfall' (Raise-and-fall ... I guess ?) deserves a better use than this :). The name has a nice rhyme to it.
  • Manch - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    Sounds like a sequel to Crysis

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