Hardly a month goes by without a new security hole being discovered that could seriously compromise computers. The recent findings – weaknesses in the high-speed interfaces Thunderbolt and PCI Express used by Macs and PCs – are therefore of course this point. However, the depth of the problem just revealed is so worrying that Linux, Mac and Windows users should be aware of the consequences if their older machines are not patched.
The study presented this week by Cambridge University's Security Group suggests that Thunderbolt and PCI Express interfaces provide peripherals with virtually unlimited memory access to Macs and PCs, turning an unauthorized device from software insertion to password retrieval or private files from a computer could do anything. A malicious peripheral could perform its promised functions concurrently while spying on or taking control of the machine.
Thunderbolt previously had its own connector type, which distinguishes cables and peripherals significantly from USB alternatives. However, the latest version, Thunderbolt 3, has the same USB-C ports that are used in most current-generation PC and Mac peripherals. It is now used in almost all Apple products and some PC laptops. PCI Express add-ons are generally desktop and server-specific.
According to the researchers, a defense mechanism that would only have limited access to all memory was not supported by Microsoft's Windows 7, 8, 1
Although the researchers say, since 2016, we've been working with vendors to reduce the vulnerabilities, and the software patches have changed across platforms. Apple apparently corrected this problem in macOS 10.12.4 in 2016. However, Microsoft has until April 2018 found time to fix the vulnerabilities in Thunderbolt (but not PCI Express) in Windows 10, so that computers prior to version 1803 were vulnerable. Fixes for Linux are included in kernel 5.0, which is about to be finalized.
Users should take two precautions: Upgrade your computer to the latest version of Linux, MacOS or Windows 10 and "be careful when connecting unknown USB C devices … especially in public places. "Despite the patches, the researchers speculate that the exploit in seemingly normal charging stations or displays that can take control of connected and unprotected machines is" very plausible. "