New Flaws Re-Enable DMA Attacks On Wide Range of Modern Computers


thunderbolt dma attack

Security researchers have discovered a new class of security vulnerabilities that impacts all major operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, Linux, and FreeBSD, allowing attackers to bypass protection mechanisms introduced to defend against DMA attacks.

Known for years, Direct memory access (DMA)-based attacks let an attacker compromise a targeted computer in a matter of seconds by plugging-in a malicious hot plug device—such as an external network card, mouse, keyboard, printer, storage, and graphics card—into Thunderbolt 3 port or the latest USB-C port.

The DMA-based attacks are possible because Thunderbolt port allows connected peripherals to bypass operating system security policies and directly read/write system memory that contains sensitive information including your passwords, banking logins, private files, and browser activity.

That means, simply plugging in an infected device, created using tools like Interception, can manipulate the contents of the memory and execute arbitrary code with much higher privileges than regular universal serial bus peripherals, allowing attackers to bypass the lock screen or control PCs remotely.

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