Home Side channel attack vulnerability found in Apple’s M1 chip

Side channel attack vulnerability found in Apple’s M1 chip

Researchers have reportedly found a vulnerability that affects Apple’s M1 chip, which could allow hackers to eavesdrop on users’ activities.

The vulnerability is believed to allow attackers to extract secret keys from Macs during commonly used cryptographic operations. According to the paper, security researchers discovered a first browser side-channel attack that is JavaScript-free.

Analysts from Cornell University started by evaluating how disabling or restricting JavaScript could help in preventing attacks. Throughout their investigation, they developed a new side-channel proof of concept using CSS and HTML, potentially paving the way for “microarchitectural website fingerprinting attacks.”

Unexpectedly, the method remained effective even when a browser had completely blocked script execution.

The issue enables attackers to spy on a user’s web activity by exploiting features in the target’s packet sequence. It can circumvent JavaScript and also override privacy technologies such as VPNs or TOR.

The team tested the attack on various processors, including Intel Core, AMD Ryzen, Samsung Exynos, and Apple M1 chips. Although the vulnerability impacts nearly all CPU architectures, the researchers found that the Apple M1 and Samsung Exynos chips appeared to be more vulnerable to their exploits.

Another vulnerability affecting the Apple M1 chip was discovered only recently. Last month, researchers found a mysterious malware strain called Silver Sparrow that could run natively on Mac devices with M1 chips.

Apple M3 chips

In October 2023, Apple announced major updates to its chips, its next-generation M3 chips, along with new M3-powered 24-inch iMacs. The M3 chips are Apple’s first built on the cutting-edge 3nm process node, packing even more transistors into a tight space for increased performance and power efficiency. The M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max represent sizable upgrades over Apple’s previous M-series chips.

The standard M3 chip offers an 8-core CPU with up to a 10-core GPU, delivering up to 35% faster CPU performance and up to 65% faster graphics versus the M1. The high-end M3 Max packs up to a 40-core GPU and 16-core CPU, providing up to 80% faster CPU performance and 50% faster graphics over the M1 Max.

Featured image: Canva

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Suswati Basu
Tech journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her…

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