Skip to main content

Spectre returns as exploits for Windows and Linux devices found

(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 (opens in new tab), security researcher Julien Voisin has discovered a pair of exploits targeting unpatched Linux and Windows (opens in new tab) systems, on the VirusTotal platform. VirusTotal gathers all antivirus (opens in new tab)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 (opens in new tab).

Intel was faced with a few dozen lawsuits (opens in new tab), some of which dealt with the way the company attempted to fix its affected chips.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.