New Vulnerability in AMD SEV Exposes Encrypted VMs







Nov 14, 2023Newsroom{Hardware} Safety / Virtualization

CacheWarp Attack

A bunch of lecturers has disclosed a brand new “software program fault assault” on AMD’s Safe Encrypted Virtualization (SEV) expertise that could possibly be doubtlessly exploited by menace actors to infiltrate encrypted digital machines (VMs) and even carry out privilege escalation.

The assault has been codenamed CacheWarp (CVE-2023-20592) by researchers from the CISPA Helmholtz Heart for Info Safety. It impacts AMD CPUs supporting all variants of SEV.

“For this analysis, we particularly checked out AMD’s latest TEE, AMD SEV-SNP, counting on the expertise from earlier assaults on Intel’s TEE,” safety researcher Ruiyi Zhang instructed The Hacker Information. “We discovered the ‘INVD’ instruction [flush a processor’s cache contents] could possibly be abused below the menace mannequin of AMD SEV.”


SEV, an extension to the AMD-V structure and launched in 2016, is designed to isolate VMs from the hypervisor by encrypting the reminiscence contents of the VM with a singular key.

The concept, in a nutshell, is to protect the VM from the chance that the hypervisor (i.e., the digital machine monitor) could possibly be malicious and thus can’t be trusted by default.

SEV-SNP, which includes Safe Nested Paging (SNP), provides “sturdy reminiscence integrity safety to assist forestall malicious hypervisor-based assaults like knowledge replay, reminiscence re-mapping, and extra so as to create an remoted execution atmosphere,” in accordance to AMD.

However CacheWarp, based on Zhang, makes it doable to defeat the integrity protections and obtain privilege escalation and distant code execution within the focused digital machine –

The instruction `INVD` drops all of the modified content material within the cache with out writing them again to the reminiscence. Therefore, the attacker can drop any writes of visitor VMs and the VM continues with architecturally stale knowledge. Within the paper, we display that through two primitives, “timewarp” and “dropforge.”

For the timewarp, we are able to reset what the pc has memorized as the subsequent step. This makes the pc execute code that it executed earlier than as a result of it reads an outdated so-called return deal with from reminiscence. The pc thus travels again in time. Nonetheless, the outdated code is executed with new knowledge (the return worth of one other operate), which results in surprising results. We use this methodology to bypass OpenSSH authentication, logging in with out realizing the password.

One other methodology, known as “Dropforge,” lets the attacker reset modifications of visitor VMs made to knowledge. With one or a number of drops, the attacker can manipulate the logic circulate of visitor execution in an exploitable manner. Take the `sudo` binary for instance, a return worth is saved within the reminiscence (stack) in order that the attacker can reset it to an preliminary worth. Nonetheless, the preliminary worth “0” offers us administrator privilege even when we aren’t.


With this mix, we’ve limitless entry to the digital machine.

Profitable exploitation of the architectural bug may allow an attacker to hijack the management circulate of a program by reverting to a earlier state, and seize management of the VM. AMD has since launched a microcode replace to repair the “instruction misuse.”

“A crew of Google Venture Zero and Google Cloud safety has audited the latest model of AMD’s TEE (SEV-SNP) final yr,” Zhang famous. “AMD additionally claims that SEV-SNP prevents all assaults on the integrity. Nonetheless, our assault breaks the integrity of it.”

CISPA researchers, earlier this August, additionally revealed a software-based energy side-channel assault concentrating on Intel, AMD, and Arm CPUs dubbed Collide+Energy (CVE-2023-20583) that could possibly be weaponized to leak delicate knowledge by breaking isolation protections.

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