Helpnetsecurity: SWAPGS Attack: A new Spectre haunts machines with Intel CPUs

Bitdefender researchers have uncovered yet another viable speculative execution side-channel attack that can be leveraged against Intel CPUs and the computers running on them.

he SWAPGS Attack, as they call it, circumvents the protective measures that have been put in-place in response to earlier attacks such as Spectre and Meltdown. Still, there is plenty of good news: Microsoft has already released Windows patches for the flaw that makes the attack possible and, even though feasible, the researchers don’t expect the attack to be exploited for widespread, non-targeted attacks.

“A successful attack requires a vulnerable Intel CPU, an unpatched operating system and several hours of continuous probing,” Bogdan Botezatu, Director of Threat Research at Bitdefender, told Help Net Security.

“This attack was not trivial to discover or execute, so, in the absence of a proof of code, I would rate is as difficult to implement for the average cyber-criminal. It might, however, be more than appealing to high profile threat actors, given the fact that exploitation leaves no traces on the system.”

The attack

As Spectre, Meltdown, MDS and other similar attacks before it, the SWAPGS attack takes advantage of speculative execution, a functionality that seeks to speed-up the CPU by having it make educated guesses as to which instructions might come next.

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