Serious Thunderbolt 3 Security Flaw Found

A new security flaw has been discovered that affects devices using the Thunderbolt interface. The vulnerability affects all the major platforms including MacOS and Windows. It has been dubbed as Thunderclap.

Thunderclap Thunderbolt 3 Security Flaw

The discovery was the result of a joint research between the Department of Computer Science and Technology at the University of Cambridge, Rice University and SRI International. The operating system makers were warned well before the findings were disclosed publicly. The paper presentation took place at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS) in San Diego, California.

The vulnerability takes advantage of Direct Memory Access (DMA) enabled by Thunderbolt that allows its accessories access to the target device. If proper protections are not used, hackers can use that access to steal valuable classified data and run malicious codes.

According to paper published most modern computers are affected by this vulnerability which includes:

  • Machines with older versions of thunderbolt are also affected.
  • All Apple laptops and computers produced since 2011 are vulnerable, except the 12-inch MacBook.
  • Thunderbolt 3 is often supported via USB Type-C ports on modern laptops.
  • Many laptops designed to run Windows or Linux produced since 2016 are also affected.

Markettos and his team discovered the vulnerability in 2016 and have already released it to major operating system manufacturers to aide in a fix. Apple rolled out a patch for a specific part of the bug in macOS 10.12.4 the same year. Windows 10 version 1803 also protects against the vulnerability on a firmware level for newer devices.

Thunderbolt 3 Security Flaw

The best way to protect your device against Thunderclap is to disable all the thunderbolt ports. Also, avoid sharing publicly available accessories such as chargers as they can be altered to target devices.

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