Researchers Find Apple M1 Chip Vulnerability, There Is No Way To Prevent Hackers From Encryption Keys

Researchers Find Apple M1 Chip Vulnerability, There Is No Way To Prevent Hackers From Encryption Keys


Photo by Pixabay

Academic researchers have discovered a critical vulnerability embedded within Apple‘s M-series chips, posing a serious threat to the security of Mac and MacBook devices. This discovery, outlined in a paper published recently, underscores the inability to patch the flaw directly, leaving users vulnerable to potential attacks aimed at extracting secret encryption keys, first reported by Ars Technica.

According to the outlet, “the problem lies in a component called the chips’ data memory-dependent prefetcher. This part of the hardware is designed to predict which memory addresses the running code data that running code is likely to access in the near future. “The threat resides in the chips’ data memory-dependent prefetcher, a hardware optimization that predicts the memory addresses of data that running code is likely to access in the near future.” It does this by loading the data into the CPU cache before it’s actually needed. This helps reduce the time it takes for the CPU to access the data from the main memory, which is often a slow process. This feature, abbreviated as DMP, is relatively new and can be found in M-series chips and Intel’s 13th-generation Raptor Lake microarchitecture. Older versions of prefetchers have been around for a while, but the DMP is a more advanced version.

Dubbed “GoFetch” by the researchers, the vulnerability exploits a microarchitectural side-channel within the M-series chips, specifically targeting data memory-dependent prefetchers (DMPs). These prefetchers, designed to enhance processing speed by predicting and retrieving data before requested, inadvertently create a pathway for malicious actors to extract sensitive information, Ars Technica reported.

Researchers say the attack “GoFetch” is “a microarchitectural side-channel attack that can extract secret keys from constant-time cryptographic implementations via data memory-dependent prefetchers (DMPs).”

While the problem is not patchable, researchers say Apple could implement workarounds, but these would badly impact performance.

The flaw exposes a significant risk to the security of Apple devices powered by the M1, M2, and M3 chipsets, spanning models released from late 2020 to the present day, Mashable reported. What sets this vulnerability apart is its unpatchable nature, stemming from the microarchitectural design of the silicon itself. Consequently, traditional patching methods are rendered ineffective, leaving users susceptible to exploitation by cyber attackers.

Still, researchers stress that real-world risks are low, 9 To 5 Mac reported.

To take advantage of the flaw, a perpetrator would need to get the Apple devise user to install a harmful application. It’s important to note that unsigned Mac applications are automatically blocked as a security measure.

On top of this, executing an attack requires a substantial amount of time. In tests conducted by researchers, the process ranged from 54 minutes to 10 hours. Consequently, the malicious application would need to remain active for an extended period.

Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/macbook-pro-beside-white-ipad-4158/