Most PC/laptops available these days come with Thunderbolt port, which is a patented Intel technology and has been the go-to port for Apple MacBook users over the years. But a new security report suggests the same port running on Windows and even Linux devices is leaving them vulnerable to hackers, who could access any of these machines in around five minutes. Also Read - Tata Sky Binge+ Android TV set-top-box price slashed by Rs 2,000: Check offer
Update: Intel has confirmed about the threat of Thunderspy but it has also pointed out the vulnerability was fixed sometime back. “In 2019, major operating systems implemented Kernel Direct Memory Access (DMA) protection to mitigate against attacks such as these. This includes Windows (Windows 10 1803 RS4 and later), Linux (kernel 5.x and later), and MacOS (MacOS 10.12.4 and later),” said Jerry Bryant, Director of Communications, Intel Product Assurance and Security in this post. Also Read - Microsoft rolls out dedicated Family Safety app for preview on iOS, Android
What is Thunderspy?
“If your computer has such a (Thunderbolt) port, an attacker who gets brief physical access to it can read and copy all your data, even if your drive is encrypted and your computer is locked or set to sleep,” as mentioned by security researcher Björn Ruytenberg from the Eindhoven University of Technology in this post. This form of attack is called Thunderspy.
The scary part about Thunderspy is that it doesn’t need the hacker to send you a malicious mail to infect the device with any malware or software. All they need is five minutes with a Windows or Linux laptop and without unlocking the device, they can use the Thunderbolt port to access the main hard drive with ease.
This vulnerability poses serious danger to Thunderbolt port on laptops manufactured before 2019, as per the report. “It does not require your involvement, i.e., there is no phishing link or malicious piece of hardware that the attacker tricks you into using,” Bjorn adds.
So how does one figure out if Thunderspy is a threat to your device? For this, Bjorn and his team have created an open-source tool called Spycheck that will tell if a system is prone to attack, and if so, provide them with set of recommendation to protect their system.
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In addition to this, he pointed out the only other way to protect laptops against such attack is to disable the Thunderbolt ports, enable hard drive encryption, and most importantly, don’t leave the machine unattended.