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Spectre returns as exploits for Windows and Linux devices found

security
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Golden Sikorka)

Remember Spectre, the infamous vulnerability that had all major chip manufacturers scrambling for a fix? Three years after its initial emergence, two new working exploits have been identified.

According to a report from Bleeping Computer, security researcher Julien Voisin has discovered a pair of exploits targeting unpatched Linux and Windows systems, on the VirusTotal platform. VirusTotal gathers all antivirus scans in one place and checks for potential malware missed by different solutions, and these exploits were uploaded a month ago.

The report claims unprivileged users can dump LM/NT hashes on Windows systems and the linux /etc/shadow file from the target device kernel memory, as well as Kerberos tickets that can be used with PsExec for local privilege escalation. Further, the exploit allows lateral movement through Windows systems.

Spectre is a (relatively) old vulnerability, with most operating systems and CPU manufacturers already supplying a fix. However, systems that have not been patched remain at risk, including older operating systems and computers with five-year-old silicon.

The latter group of devices are even more at risk, as many chip firms have consciously decided not to apply a fix, given the noticeable performance decrease involved.

Spectre was first spotted some three years ago, together with another major vulnerability known as Meltdown. When it was discovered, hardware manufacturers and software companies rushed to release a fix. Some of the fixes made the problem even worse, by slowing devices down and, in some cases, completely bricking them.

Intel was faced with a few dozen lawsuits, some of which dealt with the way the company attempted to fix its affected chips.