On May 14, 2019, Intel and other industry partners shared details and information about a new group of vulnerabilities collectively called Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS).
First identified by Intel’s internal researchers and partners, and independently reported to Intel by external researchers, MDS is a sub-class of previously disclosed speculative execution side channel vulnerabilities and is comprised of four related techniques. Under certain conditions, MDS provides a program the potential means to read data that program otherwise would not be able to see. MDS techniques are based on a sampling of data leaked from small structures within the CPU using a locally executed speculative execution side channel. Practical exploitation of MDS is a very complex undertaking. MDS does not, by itself, provide an attacker with a way to choose the data that is leaked.
MDS is addressed in hardware starting with select 8th and 9th Generation Intel® Core™ processors, as well as the 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® processor Scalable family. More details can be found here. We expect all future Intel® processors include hardware mitigations addressing these vulnerabilities.
For products where MDS is not addressed in hardware, Intel is releasing processor microcode updates (MCU) as part of our regular update process with OEMs. These are coupled with corresponding updates to operating system and hypervisor software.
When these mitigation’s are enabled, minimal performance impacts are expected for the majority of PC client application based benchmarks. Performance or resource utilization on some data center workloads may be affected and may vary accordingly.
Once these updates are applied, it may be appropriate for some customers to consider additional steps. This includes customers who cannot guarantee that trusted software is running on their system(s) and are using Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT). In these cases, customers should consider how they utilise SMT for their particular workload(s), guidance from their OS and VMM software providers, and the security threat model for their particular environment. Because these factors will vary considerably by customer, Intel is not recommending that Intel® HT be disabled, and it’s important to understand that doing so does not alone provide protection against MDS.
More detailed information on mitigation’s affecting MDS vulnerabilities can be found here.