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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Apple’s M-Series Chipsets Vulnerable to Unpatchable Security Flaw

A critical security flaw named "GoFetch" in Apple's M-Series chipsets allows attackers to extract encryption keys via prefetchers, posing a significant threat to data security and challenging mitigation efforts due to its unpatchable nature and potential performance degradation.

A new security vulnerability discovered in Apple’s M-Series chipsets has raised concerns among users and experts alike. This flaw, named “GoFetch” by researchers, poses a significant risk to the security of Mac and MacBook computers, potentially allowing hackers to extract sensitive information like encryption keys.

The vulnerability, dubbed “GoFetch,” exploits a flaw in the microarchitectural design of Apple’s M-Series chipsets. It leverages prefetchers, components designed to predictively retrieve data, to extract secret encryption keys from constant-time cryptographic implementations via data memory-dependent prefetchers (DMPs).

Prefetchers, particularly the DMPs in Apple’s Silicon chipsets, are manipulated by attackers to retrieve sensitive data, like encryption keys, through chosen input attacks. This manipulation exploits the prefetchers’ tendency to treat certain data values as pointers, leaking information through cache side channels. The attack poses a serious threat to security as it can bypass cryptography apps’ security measures quickly, extracting keys in under an hour.

Unlike typical security vulnerabilities, this flaw is unpatchable due to its fundamental nature in the chip’s microarchitecture. While developers can mitigate the risk by implementing defenses into cryptographic software, such measures come with significant performance penalties. These include techniques like ciphertext blinding, which randomizes internal states but can double computing resources required, and running cryptographic processes on efficiency cores, which may increase operation times noticeably.

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This revelation highlights the need for a broader hardware-software contract to address vulnerabilities like GoFetch effectively. Users are advised to watch for mitigation updates for macOS software implementing vulnerable encryption protocols and to remain vigilant as other cryptographic protocols may also be susceptible to similar attacks.