At the beginning of this year, the whole world has heard news about the security vulnerabilities found in the architecture of Intel 64-bit processors. Immediately after that it turned out that despite the different architecture, a similar problem also applies to the AMD processors. Although no-one has demonstrated a successful attack using published vulnerabilities, AMD’s engineers confirm that on computers equipped with their hardware, security patches will also need to be installed.
Immediately after the entire IT world began to talk about Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, AMD published a short statement based on the knowledge of that time. A few days ago, it was updated by Mark Papermaster, AMD Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. We learned from him that AMD processors are not vulnerable to Meltdown attack. The difference in architecture between AMD and Intel is based on the use of the protection of privilege levels within call architecture. However, this does not mean that the owners of AMD processors can sleep peacefully. Unfortunately, this equipment is vulnerable to attacks based on mechanisms for predicting processor processing that have been baptized as Spectre.
The Spectre problem in the Bounds Check Bypass variant applies to AMD processors
AMD engineers maintain that the vulnerability could be patched at the operating system upgrade level. Microsoft and the developers responsible for individual Linux distributions have already provided patches to solve this problem. Unfortunately, it turned out that Microsoft was forced to stop distributing this update for computers equipped with older processors from the AMD Opteron, Athlon and AMD Turion X2 Ultra families. The giant from Redmond and AMD are already working on solving the problems encountered. The new version of the patch will be delivered next week.
Spectre variety in the form of Branch Target Injection also applies to AMD processors
The manufacturer believes that carrying out this attack on their equipment is difficult due to the architecture used. However, despite this, work is underway to prepare the appropriate updates. Even this week, AMD will provide an optional microcode update for Ryzen and EPYC processors. Patches for older generations will appear in the following weeks. However, the distribution of computer systems and operating systems will be responsible for their distribution.
Some wondered if similar attacks could be performed on AMD Radeon graphics cards. However, they do not use prediction techniques, so they are not susceptible to the above attacks.