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Jan 15, 2017 12:43 PM EST

Hackers Can Take Full Control on Computers with Intel Skylake CPUs; Possible Through USB 3.0 Port

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Security vendor Positive Technologies found vulnerability in some Intel Skylake CPUs that lets hackers attack computers through USB. The issue is in the CPU's debugging interface that allows hackers to take full control of the computer's system via USB. 

Attacks Carried Out Through USB 3.0 Ports

The Intel chip debugger opens up the computer to hacking and since it is found under the software layer, it would be difficult for security tools to detect the attack. According to Positive Technologies researchers, the new Intel CPUs have debugging interface that can be access through USB 3.0 ports, Guru 3D reported. Attackers can use this loophole to take full control over a system.

According to the researchers, hackers can easily take advantage of the bug because there are no special equipment needed to penetrate it. But the hackers will need physical access to the computer. The bug is only present on Skylake U CPUs on NUCs and Ultrabooks.

Bug Explained

After launching the sixth-generation "Skylake" processor back in 2015, Intel introduced its latest Direct Connect Interface (DCI) technology, which is a more convenient way for testers to debug a system without physically opening the PC. In the 33rd year of Chaos Communication Congress conference held in Hamburg Germany, Positive Technologies security researchers Maxim Goryachy and Mark Emrolov revealed that attackers can exploit the DCI to control a system, Digital Trends reported.

To understand the vulnerability, it would be best to begin with the debugging interface, which was developed by the Joint Test Action Group (JTAG). This interface was originally created to test printed circuit boards after being manufactured and installed. This interface has now expanded to chipsets and processors.

Since the interface is inside the processor and chipsets, a dedicated port is needed for the testers to connect to the motherboard to debug the hardware. The JTAG debugging interface can be penetrated through a USB 3.0 port via the DCI. And this is the same port where hackers can access the computers programmable chips and processors.

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