Article by Nicola Manica

Are thin clients affected by Spectre and Meltdown?

Side-channel attacks

The two vulnerabilities exploit the possibility of a side-channel attack of the processor.

A side-channel attack is any attack based on information acquired from the physical implementation of an information system. Timing information, energy consumption, electromagnetic losses or even sound can be exploited to break the system. By using statistical analysis of these physical operations, it is possible to obtain data from protected memory (for example passwords and cryptographic keys).  It is not a simple attack to perform, and cannot be enabled remotely because the malicious code must be executed locally on the machine. It is still unclear whether it is really possible to corrupt or modify data.

Some clarifications

You can find a lot of information about this matter on the Internet, but we still want to report some important comments obtained directly from our discussions with Intel:

  • The attacker can observe the protected memory content, bypassing the level of privilege of the application.
  • It exploits a flaw of speculative execution, common in all modern processors.
  • It is not unique to a processor or on the implementation of a specific processor.
  • It is not the result of a product that does not comply with the specifications.
  • There are various techniques to mitigate the vulnerability, starting initially from the software and the operating system, then from the bios/firmware to finally arrive at a hardware redesign.

The impact on thin client devices

The vulnerability in thin client devices has less impact than other systems, because in thin devices, the information that is processed is the output of virtual machines, and therefore more difficult to interpret by an attacker.

Praim’s commitment to safety

At Praim we are always committed to keeping our products up-to-date, with a special attention to security.  To repair the issue necessitates working in depth on the hardware system, which then requires a thorough testing phase to exclude the occurrence of collateral problems.

ThinOX

In our ThinOX 10 models we are working to provide an updated version of the operating system to fix the vulnerability as soon as possible. The Linux kernel community has already released some patches, which are being tested in our labs.  In addition, Intel has provided a new version of the microcode for its CPUs, which is currently under test.

Windows 10 IoT and Windows 7 Embedded

Microsoft is releasing patches for its operating systems, which will be integrated into future versions of Windows 10 IoT and Windows 7 Embedded.

For customers who have older Windows devices and for which patching problems may arise, Praim recommends the use of ThinOX4PC, the software that installs the Linux-based Praim ThinOX operating system, extremely secure thanks to the total disk write security

Models affected by vulnerabilities

Devices with Intel processors according to the table. For devices with VIA processors, no information has yet been issued by the manufacturer regarding the problem.

The series affected by the vulnerability are as follows:

Family Processor Status Affected by vulnerability A fix version is expected
All-In-One Intel Atom N270 EOR YES NO
Atomino Intel Atom N270 EOL YES NO
Atomino Dual Core INTEL ATOM D2550 EOM NO NO
Atomino Quad Core Series Intel Celeron J1900 In production YES YES
Compact VIA Eden ULV 1GHz/VIA VX800 EOR Waiting for information Waiting for information
Compact Dual Core VIA Eden X2 1GHz Dual Core/VIA VX900 EOP Waiting for information Waiting for information
Duetto Quad Core Series Intel Celeron J1900 In production YES YES
Ino 900 VIA Eden ULV 500MHz/CN700 EOR Waiting for information Waiting for information
Ino 9000 VIA Eden ULV 1GHz/VX855 EOS Waiting for information Waiting for information
Ino SoC Series Texas Instruments DM8148 EOP YES YES
Neutrino Series Intel Celeron N2807 In production YES YES
P Series Teradici 2321 In production NO
Ultra VIA Eden ULV 1.6GHz/VIA VX800 EOL Waiting for information Waiting for information
Ultra Dual Core INTEL ATOM D2550 EOL NO NO
Ultra Quad Core Series Intel Celeron J1900 In production YES YES

 

Updates and patches released by Intel, Via Technologies, Linux and Microsoft will be made available as soon as tested and recognised as stable and not problematic.

More information on affected Intel platforms:

https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/architecture-and-technology/facts-about-side-channel-analysis-and-intel-products.html

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