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How to survive Meltdown and Spectre

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ESET has found new vulnerabilities called Spectre and Meltdown that affect almost all Intel, AMD and ARM processors, allowing hackers to access a computer’s memory.

ESET says it is one of the few third-party security solutions already compatible with Microsoft’s emergency patches, released on 3 January, for vulnerabilities called Spectre and Meltdown that affect almost all Intel, AMD and ARM processors.

Many types of computing devices, with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems are susceptible. Apple’s iPhones, iPads and Mac computers are all vulnerable.

The vulnerabilities affect the microprocessors in the majority of the world’s computers, including mobile devices and cloud networks, and can allow hackers to access the entire contents of a computer’s memory.

The Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities are bi-products of optimization techniques designed to increase the performance of modern processors.

These techniques are called “out-of-order” and “speculative” execution. They allow the processor to make better use of time it would have to spend waiting unnecessarily before executing the next instruction to pre-compute further results which may or may not be used in the execution flow.

These pre-computed results, if not used, are discarded – but, as researchers have shown, there are side-effects left by such precomputation which are not disposed of thoroughly enough and can sometimes be leaked to the potential attacker.

As stated by the authors of the papers describing the vulnerabilities, there are theoretical ways antivirus could detect the problem. However, detection would have an extremely negative impact on the device’s performance and significantly influence user experience; it would be a less effective approach than prevention. Therefore, we recommend that ESET users keep track of any related patches for their systems and apply them as soon as possible. 

While ESET protects against potential malware infection, it says users should also take these steps to securecomputers and data:

·         Make sure your browser is up to date. For Chrome or Firefox users:

o    Mozilla has released information describing their response, including how Firefox 57 will address these security flaws.

o    Google has stated, “Chrome 64, due to be released January 23, will contain mitigations to protect against exploitation.” In the meantime, you can enable “Site Isolation” found in current stable versions of Chrome to provide better protection.

·         Make sure you update your ESET software, then update your Windows OS to protect against this exploit. To update ESET:

ESET Home products (NOD32 Antivirus, Internet Security, Smart Security Premium)

o    ESET Business products (Endpoint Antivirus, Endpoint Security, File and Mail Security and Virtualization Security)

·         Customers should review ESET’s Knowledgebase article for important updates.

·         If you have a cloud-based server or have a website hosted by hosting provider, check to see what mitigations they have implemented already to prevent Meltdown.

Here is a list of affected vendors and their respective advisories and/or patch announcements:

Vendor

Advisory/Announcement

Amazon (AWS)

AWS-2018-013: Processor Speculative Execution Research Disclosure

Apple

HT208331: About the security content of macOS High Sierra 10.13.2, Security Update 2017-002 Sierra, and Security Update 2017-005 El Capitan

HT208394: About speculative execution vulnerabilities in ARM-based and Intel CPUs

ARM

Vulnerability of Speculative Processors to Cache Timing Side-Channel Mechanism

Azure

Securing Azure customers from CPU vulnerability

Microsoft Cloud Protections Against Speculative Execution Side-Channel Vulnerabilities

Google’s Project Zero

Reading Privileged Memory with a Side-Channel

IBM

Potential CPU Security Issue

Intel

INTEL-SA-00088 Speculative Execution and Indirect Branch Prediction Side Channel Analysis Method

Microsoft

Security Advisory 180002: Guidance to mitigate speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

Windows Client guidance for IT Pros to protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

Windows Server guidance to protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

Important information regarding the Windows security updates released on January 3, 2018 and anti-virus software

Mozilla

Mozilla Foundation Security Advisory 2018-01: Speculative execution side-channel attack (“Spectre”)

Red Hat

Kernel Side-Channel Attacks – CVE-2017-5754 CVE-2017-5753 CVE-2017-5715

VMware

NEW VMSA VMSA-2018-0002 VMware ESXi, Workstation and Fusion updates address side-channel analysis due to speculative execution

Xen

Advisory XSA-254: Information leak via side effects of speculative execution

Featured

Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards

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The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”

Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever AwardShe has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).

The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:

SPORT

The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognitionAge cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.

Click here to see who won the awards for data journalism , CSI/sustainability and photography.

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Cons exploit Telegram ICO

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Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.

In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.

Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.

The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.

Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.

“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:

  • Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
  • Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
  • Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.

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