There is no peace for Intel, according to a report published by The Wall Street Journal the company warned Chinese tech giants about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities before notifying them to the US government.
Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter and some of the companies involved, The WSJ revealed that the list of Chinese companies includes Lenovo and Alibaba.
It is not clear when Intel notified the flaw to Lenovo, but a leaked memo from Intel to computer makers suggests the company reported the issues to an unnamed group of on November 29 via a non-disclosure agreement. The same day, the Intel CEO Brian Krzanich sold off his shares.
Last week, French tech publication LeMagIT’s Christophe Bardy disclosed the first page of the “Technical Advisory” issued by the Intel Product Security Incident Response Team.
Of course, security experts speculate the companies might have passed this information to the Chinese Government, but Alibaba spokesman refused any accusation.
I personally believe that the Chinese Government was informed by the companies about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities and it is disconcerting that the US intelligence agencies neither US CERTs were not aware of the flaws.
We also know that the Meltdown flaw is easy to exploit, this means that it is likely that threat actors might have triggered it to extract passwords and other sensitive data from a target machine. The situation is worrisome in cloud-computing environments were many customers share the same servers, in this scenario an attacker can launch a Meltdown attack to steal info belonging to other clients with applications hosted on the same server.
El Reg reached Intel for a comment, below the reply of the chip vendor:
“The Google Project Zero team and impacted vendors, including Intel, followed best practices of responsible and coordinated disclosure. Standard and well-established practice on initial disclosure is to work with industry participants to develop solutions and deploy fixes ahead of publication. In this case, news of the exploit was reported ahead of the industry coalition’s intended public disclosure date at which point Intel immediately engaged the US government and others.” states the El Reg.
Let me close with this eloquent Tweet published by security journalist Zach Whittaker:
This is grade A crap. Several people told me Meltdown/Spectre's planned disclosure was set for Jan. 9 but was revealed on Jan. 3 after a PoC came out. Based on WSJ, Intel was going to tell the US gov. only a week before disclosure?! It knew since June! https://t.co/DLusu37zoL pic.twitter.com/3s9COTub0C
— Zack Whittaker (@zackwhittaker) January 28, 2018
(Security Affairs – China, Intel)