A Message About Intel's Microarchitectural MDS Vulnerability

Today there has been a revelation in the news about a new attack dubbed ZombieLoad which allows the exfiltration of data held in system memory by processes that shouldn't have access to that data on Intel systems.

Here is a quote from the ZombieLoad website:

While programs normally only see their own data, a malicious program can exploit the fill buffers to get hold of secrets currently processed by other running programs. These secrets can be user-level secrets, such as browser history, website content, user keys, and passwords, or system-level secrets, such as disk encryption keys.

One scenario where this can be exploited with wide-reaching ramifications is cloud hosting. When you rent a Virtual Private Server (VPS) from a cloud host such as Amazon, Digital Ocean, Google, Microsoft and many others you're actually sharing a virtualised piece of a larger system. And you will have neighbours on that system.

Normally the virtual machines are kept completely isolated from each other with files and memory kept separate by the host system. But with this attack you can break down those secure barriers and peek at what the other guests on the system are doing with their slice of the host resources. You can also peak at the host system itself revealing data encryption keys, root access keys and other data that should remain secret at all times.

Now the reason we're making this post is because we've already had some customers send us links to the new attack because they're concerned about how it affects us. Well we want to make clear, we're not affected because we do not use cloud hosting or virtual private servers for any of our core infrastructure.

All of our nodes within our main cluster are bare metal meaning we operate the entire physical server, we're not renting just a slice of it. That also means all customer data we have is held on bare metal servers and are completely safe from this new vulnerability. While it's true we use VPS's for our honeypots they do not hold any data beyond incoming attacks.

We specifically use a data-retrieve model for our honeypots where they collect and store attacks and then one of our core servers connects to the honeypot and downloads their data. At no point are any of these honeypots given access to the rest of our infrastructure. They hold no keys or credentials. We treat them the same way we would any untrusted third-party.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.


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