Researchers have discovered a new vulnerability in the latest Apple processors. As they comment, those affected are the M1 models and also the A14 Bionic what the iPhone 12 carries. It’s a failure at the microarchitecture level which they called ‘augurs‘. Fortunately, at the moment it seems that it is not as dangerous as it seems.
This was commented on by Jose Rodrigo Sanchez Vicarte, University of Illinois; and Michael Flanders of the University of Washington. Both led a group of researchers responsible for publish the discovery of the “Augury” fault. Moreover, they confirm that all these discoveries were sent to apple before being officially released.
According to the research group, Apple’s M1 and A14 chips use what is known as the “Data Memory Dependent Prefetcher”, or WMD for its acronyms in English. this entity is responsible for viewing content stored in memory to decide which items to prefetch.
How Augury Vulnerability Works in Apple M1s
The research team specifically tested the M1, M1 Max, and A14, finding that these chips preload with a pointer array dereferencing model. With this, it was revealed that during the process data may be revealed “that is never read by any instructionnot even speculatively.” Such behavior differs from traditional processors.
Of course, this could lead to unwanted scenarios if cybercriminals take advantage of the vulnerability. The study explains that much of hardware and software security focused on defense and attack prevention “assumes that there is some type of instruction that gives access to the secret.” However, these defenses could not come into action against Augury.
“Any defense that relies on tracking what data the kernel is accessing (speculatively or otherwise) cannot protect against Augury because the leaked data is never read by the kernel.”
Fortunately, it’s not that bad.
This seems to indicate David Kohlbrenner, assistant professor at the University of Washington. On his Twitter account, he states that an attack of this style is one of the weakest that can be performed on the DMP.
In fact, the researchers themselves make this known in their study. Here they comment that Augury not such a terrible weakness, at least not yet. Moreover, they did not demonstrate any technique using this model to take advantage of the system.
It is not known if Apple has already started working on a patch for Augury., and neither do the researchers know. However, the company takes the security of its devices very seriously, so we will most likely see a solution soon. For now, at least, we know it’s not as big a problem as previously thought.