IMPLICATIONS OF INTEL PROCESSOR BUG FLAW

Earlier this month a story broke that you may not have seen, but it has some huge implications, which we'll be getting back to, but when I read the following article, shared by Mr. W., I knew I had to be blogging about it eventually. The story? The biggest maker of computer chips, Intel, has several design flaws in its chips. The problem? Virtually anyone with a computer or a smart phone, is affected. Consider  the following carefully:

"Everyone Is Affected": Why The Implications Of The Intel "Bug" Are Staggering

Now, you'll have noticed that I filed this particular story under "Babylon's Banksters," and we'll get back to my reasons for doing so shortly, for as you can imagine, it relates directly to today's high octane speculation. There's enough here in this article to ponder about and implications spin out in all directions, but I want to concentrate on just two general directions. Consider the following statements:

Earlier today, we reported that according to a press reports, Intel's computer chips were affected by a bug that makes them vulnerable to hacking. Specifically, The Register said the bug lets some software gain access to parts of a computer’s memory that are set aside to protect things like passwords, and making matters worse, all computers with Intel chips from the past 10 years appear to be affected. The news, which sent Intel's stock tumbling, was later confirmed by the company.

...

The extent of the vulnerability is huge

As Bloomberg writes, "the vulnerability may have consequences beyond just computers, and is not the result of a design or testing error." Here's how the bug "works":

All modern microprocessors, including those that run smartphones, are built to essentially guess what functions they’re likely to be asked to run next. By queuing up possible executions in advance, they’re able to crunch data and run software much faster.

The problem in this case is that this predictive loading of instructions allows access to data that’s normally cordoned off securely, Intel Vice President Stephen Smith said on a conference call. That means, in theory, that malicious code could find a way to access information that would otherwise be out of reach, such as passwords.

...

There is another take, and according to this one the implications to both Intel and the entire CPU industry could be dire. What follows is the transcription of the Monday afternoon tweetstorm by Nicole Perlroth - cybersecurity reporter at the NYT - according to whom today's "bug" is "not an Intel problem but an entire chipmaker design problem that affects virtually all processors on the market." In fact, according to the cybersecurity expert, one aspect of the bug is extremely troubling simply because there is no fix. Here is the full explanation.

...

  • 4. We're dealing with two serious threats. The first is isolated to #IntelChips, has been dubbed Meltdown, and affects virtually all Intel microprocessors. The patch, called KAISER, will slow performance speeds of processors by as much as 30 percent.
  • 5. The second issue is a fundamental flaw in processor design approach, dubbed Spectre, which is more difficult to exploit, but affects virtually ALL PROCESSORS ON THE MARKET (Note here: Intel stock went down today but Spectre affects AMD and ARM too), and has NO FIX.
  • 6. Spectre will require a complete re-architecture of the way processors are designed and the threats posed will be with us for an entire hardware lifecycle, likely the next decade.
  • 7. The basic issue is the age old security dilemma: Speed vs Security. For the past decade, processors were designed to gain every performance advantage. In the process, chipmakers failed to ask basic questions about whether their design was secure. (Narrator: They were not)

(Italicized emphasis added)

There are, as I mentioned, two areas that concern me about this story: (1) national security and (2) financial clearing and data, and other financial "products". The national security angle intrigues because this story broke at the end of a year which saw more ship collisions, a year in which we saw the Fitzgerald and McCain incident, both incidents which I have blogged about on this site. At the time, the explanations and speculations ranged from simple incompetence to cyber-security problems and global positioning "spoofing" to more exotic explanations from electromagnetic weaponry to potential mind manipulation. I've been willing to entertain all these explanations and perhaps even combinations of these things.  Consider only the possibility of global positioning spoofing, which would seem to be more or less easily accomplished for a professional cyber-warfare scheme that knows these architectural flaws and is trained to exploit them.

In short, the problem is a national security issue, and perhaps even "blowback" from decisions taken long ago in the USA (most likely during the Reagan era) to insert "clipper chips" - deliberately flawed hardware with "backdoors" allowing government access to private systems. If that highly speculative reading of this story is true, then it poses a rather significant question: is the US government willing to allow the production of chips that have no such hidden and deliberate "design flaws" in trade for greater across the board cyber security, or will it insist on secret agreements with chip producers to continue the practice? From the national security point of view, it's not an easy choice.

But I suspect the real problem here is that of secure financial data transfer and clearing, and in particular, the problems this story poses for the blockchain-cryptocurrency phenomenon, which has become something almost approaching the status of a religion for its defenders. We've been assured over and over that the blockchain is a relatively secure platform and that cryptocurrencies are therefore more or less free from governmental or central bank "interference." But how secure is a system which - distributed ledger though it may be - nonetheless is being serviced by thousands of private computers using chips with design flaws that permit a capable hacker of stealing all sorts of secure data, like... passwords, for example?

I would contend that it is not secure, and that the Intel story thus contains wider implications that have not yet "hit" the growing market.

For me and my house, this only reinforces my conviction that the only sound and truly anonymous and relatively secure medium of exchange is good old-fashioned cash.

See you on the flip side.

28 thoughts on “IMPLICATIONS OF INTEL PROCESSOR BUG FLAW”

  1. If I may echo what basta says below, I learned long ago that with respect to computer security…

    One man’s bug is another man’s feature….

    I would add the following corollary:

    One manufacturer’s bug is another organization’s opportunity…

    The CIA invites these and the chip manufacturers are more than ready to oblige. There is too much money to recycle in play: security software engines, new computer sales, old fashion criminal activity and human stupidity. Gotta keep that supply chain happy!

  2. I don’t suppose that they will come up with a solution ($Tru$t U$) that will require everyone to rush out in a panic to purchase replacement computers which they will assure us are not bugged by De$ign.
    Intel In$ide = I$raehell In$ide = Roth$childS In$ide
    looking forward to buying my chips from China and Russia when they develop and market them. sure they might be slower, but quicker than current computers after they have their Patche$ installed… tar baby style.
    AMD said the risk with SPECTRE is infitesimal (but who makes your BIO$?).
    maybe some kid got to be able to hack into this government/globalists hack and now they are being $pied upon themselves… Panic On.

  3. One other facet of this story is the Intel CEO selling his stock and exercising options all the way down to the lowest ownership for a board member. $23 million or thereabouts, and the timing was well within the 6 months Intel was aware of the problem, but very close to the formal announcement. If that’s not “insider trading” my name is Martha Stewart.

  4. Another side to this issue is that Intel engineers were well aware of the security issues with speculative computing (the source of the problems), according to one article from a person in the electronic design industry. That accounts for the remarks from Intel that their chips were not flawed, but operating “as designed.”

    My biggest concern is not only that we have now seen (one of the) the built-in back doors in the hardware that I am sure Big Brother was well aware of and using (the next stage after PROMIS?), but that the revelation will foster a huge push to move to a new generation of processors in haste, and even worse flaws will be overlooked (on purpose – never let a good crisis go to waste).

    After all, some of the newer boot regimens have excluded open source operating system software being used on some Intel based motherboards, so this could also entail an end run around those of us in the FOSS (free and open source) software world who seek freedom from the coercion of corporate fascism.

    As with the forced, top-down push to digital video formats which heavily control the ability to access and use video (as opposed to the ease of use of analog), this could be yet another nail in the coffin of digital information freedom.

    Time for open source hardware for computers.

    Big corporations, government, and NGOs have completely and decidedly proven that they cannot be trusted in matters of any importance, EVER.

    The other thing which interests me is that the danger of this kind of computing method has been well known since the 1990s (according to some), so why is it just becoming “big news” right now? The timing feels a little suspicious to me.

  5. Country simple the wiseguys have impaled themselves on their own petards. Good old paper and coined money, checks, money orders are safer than credit-debit cards and are better for commerce. The allow for more business exchange no matter how poor you are and more secure. Online commerce will kill real capitalism in the long run.

  6. A Bigger ‘Bug’:
    “Researchers Found another Major Security Flaw in Intel CPUs”
    by Joel Hruska on January 12, 2018
    extremetech dot com/computing/262031-researchers-found-another-major-security-flaw-intel-cpus
    “Security researchers have pinpointed another major security hole in Intel processors, in addition to the security holes in the Intel Management Engine and the Meltdown flaw that hits Intel CPUs uniquely hard. This time, it’s an issue with Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT)… The Intel AMT is designed to allow administrators to access and update PCs, even if those PCs are turned off. All they need is an internet connection and a wall socket and they can be updated. That’s a useful tool for large multinational firms with far-flung employees, but it’s also a potential security risk. F-Secure has published information highlighting how easily an attacker with even brief local access can gain full access to an entire machine.”

    What I find interesting is the ‘timing’ of all these Intel/intel flaw-releases. Given that they were likely designed-into the hardware/firmware, they have been quietly been providing access to nearly everyone for their masters during the last decade or so. Why the exposure Now? I could easily see this as factional infighting amongst the intelligence agencies, ‘payback’ for various insults by Russia/China/etc. with plausible deniability, or even global players moving-along some agenda. The timing aspect is the most interesting to me…

    As far as security, any time you move away from actual physical-exchange of goods, the options for breaching security inevitably go up. (Just the push from analog to digital in all things was suspicious.) An obvious sub-category of the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)…

  7. Robert Barricklow

    Hopefully, the efficiencies of “our” primary economic engines: FRAUD
    – is not threatened?

    1. Robert Barricklow

      Cash Is King.
      But there’s a digitized prince w/no human morals
      waiting, testing[India],
      with its slowly analogue dissolving solution.

      1. Robert Barricklow

        Is digitized fraud the future present?
        Winston Smith is wanting to know what is happening to cash & why?
        Harry Potter blew the whistle on the INTEL clipper chip?

  8. And if some hacker does manage to hack a fortune in bit coins is it a prosecutable crime? How do you prove it and since it is technically illegitimate anyways are there any legal protections or recourse? Studying furiously at the moment to cash in on this loop hole anyone!

    1. Fractional currency is ripe for fractional skimming. Take .33333… to infinium for example. Who’s going to notice a trillion times of rounding to the billionth whole decimal? Take a billionth of a bit coin here and there enough and you have a black budget and some free new shoes.

  9. On the rare occasions that I have swiped or waved my debit card for purchases I have noticed that these transactions can be accomplished without exchanging a word or two with the person who is taking my electro-funds. When I pay in cash there’s a lag, and in that few seconds of lag I might actually talk to a person and participate in a physical exchange of objects (notes). I think a “cashless” model of business is designed to make us reticent and uncommunicative. I wonder whether soon I will just have to walk into a premises to have my funds already pre-debited, and therefore tracked and algorhymithized so that I can be mute and never actually speak to a person ?

    1. I imagine soon that we will be charged for however words we speak, or how long we may take to complete a transaction.

      1. Imagine this; I walk towards a shop and my phone sends me a message saying : “By entering this shop you incur a fee, regardless of whether you make a purchase. You will be charged for your ingress and egress. If you choose to pay in cash you may incur incremental fees.”

        1. If I go into supermarket with my RFID debit card to buy some toothpaste
          and then go back a week later to buy some more, I might be charged on how much toothpaste I was expected to use in a week; variable prices and charges determined, not by my usage of the product, but on an implied “smart contract” which references average use in the demographic…??

          1. I believe there will come a day when my local supermarket will send a message to my phone telling me when to come in and make a purchase if I don’t want to be charged more for any product; and the vendor will impose conditions (ie, price variance) on me depending on my demographic profile.

          2. Robert Barricklow

            Baz
            That’s the idea: TOTAL control over money.
            Negative interests rates. Your more you spend; the less interest.
            There are so many sinister applications of this Orwellian nightmare that the PTB are still having nightly wet…

          3. Robert Barricklow

            …dreams.
            So, with so many “insider” back-doors; $$$$$ becomes like “our” current $[election]$: he who steals the digitized vote$ last – WIN$$$!

    2. anakephalaiosis

      Giza Death Star is an electronic forum with community based rule. It exists as an expansion of literature. Imagine, that expansion would go further, into exchanging chickens and cows.

      Would it not be practical to add a member’s feature, that would allow exchange of electronic chickens and cows? Thus the Pyramid Coin would be born.

      Point is, that money was invented in the first place, to feature an easy exchange between members of a community. One could even mine Pyramid Coins by brilliant comments.

  10. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

    “Intel inside” — quite literally.

    This Mother of All Backdoors explains lots of stuff… Oh. like warships getting rammed, vanishing airplanes, you name it.

  11. anakephalaiosis

    File sharing technology works, because it reproduces perfect copies of uploaded seeds. Movies, music and books are cluster seeded. A downloaded movie literally consists of small information packages, from various sources all over the world. To take a step further, and file share a whole “monetary system”, is basically to share a file image, that is continuously updated according to community based rule.

    Rise and fall of value is not important. The real issue is, that electronic coins cannot be clipped. Subsequently, the mediaeval coin clippers have finally been outsmarted. Of course I only use untraceable pocket cash, and will continue to do so. And if metal cash becomes rare, I will buy my cigars with farm chicken.

    There is no hole in the bucket, dear Eliza. Intel chips with clandestine holes are just coming home to roost, I guess. Those, who dig holes for others, usually fall into their own holes eventually. Karma is a Bitchcoin.

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