Hackers Can Mess With Voltages to Steal Intel Chips’ Secrets
A new attack called Plundervolt gives attackers access to the sensitive data stored in a processor’s secure enclave.
When thieves want to steal treasures surrounded by sensors and alarms, they sometimes resort to cutting the power, disrupting the flow of electricity to those expensive security systems. It turns out that hackers can pull off a similar trick: breaking the security mechanisms of Intel chips by messing with their power supply, and exposing their most sensitive secrets.
Two teams of researchers—one at the University of Birmingham in the UK, TU Graz in Vienna, KU Leuven in Belgium and another at the Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany and the University of California—have found a new technique that can allow hackers to fiddle with the voltage of Intel chips to cause them to leak information stored using Intel’s Secure Guard Extensions feature. Those “secure enclaves” in a device’s memory are designed to be impregnable. Intel, which asked the teams to keep their findings under wraps for the last six months, confirmed the findings and pushed out an update to its chip firmware to prevent the attack today.