Intel SPI Flash Flaw Lets Attackers Alter or Delete BIOS/UEFI Firmware

Haythem Elmir

Intel has addressed a vulnerability in the configuration of several CPU series that allow an attacker to alter the behavior of the chip’s SPI Flash memory —a mandatory component used during the boot-up process  .

According to Lenovo, who recently deployed the Intel fixes, « the configuration of the system firmware device (SPI flash) could allow an attacker to block BIOS/UEFI updates, or to selectively erase or corrupt portions of the firmware. »

Lenovo engineers say « this would most likely result in a visible malfunction, but could in rare circumstances result in arbitrary code execution. »

Intel deployed fixes for this vulnerability (CVE-2017-5703) on April 3. The chipset maker says the following CPU series utilize unsafe opcodes that allow local attackers to take advantage of this security bug:

8th generation Intel® Core™ Processors
7th generation Intel® Core™ Processors
6th generation Intel® Core™ Processors
5th generation Intel® Core™ Processors
Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processor N3520, N2920, and N28XX
Intel® Atom™ Processor x7-Z8XXX, x5-8XXX Processor Family
Intel® Pentium™ Processor J3710 and N37XX
Intel® Celeron™ Processor J3XXX
Intel® Atom™ x5-E8000 Processor
Intel® Pentium® Processor J4205 and N4200
Intel® Celeron® Processor J3455, J3355, N3350, and N3450
Intel® Atom™ Processor x7-E39XX Processor
Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors
Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v6 Family
Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v5 Family
Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v4 Family
Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v3 Family
Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v2 Family
Intel® Xeon® Phi™ Processor x200
Intel® Xeon® Processor D Family
Intel® Atom™ Processor C Series

The bug has received a severity score of 7.9 out of 10 on the CVSSv3 scale. Intel said it discovered the issue internally.

« Issue is root-caused, and the mitigation is known and available, » the company said in a security advisory. « To Intel’s knowledge, the issue has not been seen externally. »

Intel has released updates that PC and motherboard vendors are expected to deploy as firmware patches or BIOS/UEFI updates.


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