Indian-origin research scholar at MIT finds serious vulnerability in Apple’s M1 chip


Indian-origin Joseph Ravichandran and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a new hardware vulnerability in Apple’s in-house silicon M1 chip.

The M1 chip powers Apple’s top-notch computer systems Macs.

Ravichandran, a Ph.D. scholar at MIT, has named this particular anomaly as ‘PACMAN’, Telangana Today further reported.

‘PACMAN’ allows attackers to stop the M1 chip from detecting bug attacks on MAC’s software system.

The research team at MIT showed how this particular threat can defeat the M1 chip’s ‘Pointer Authentication’ without leaving a trace from the attackers.

The feature ‘Pointer Authentication’ is a defense mechanism that prevents usual external threats and bug attacks in a MAC, the report stated further.

What is more worrisome is that attackers using the ‘PACMAN’ vulnerability utilizes a hardware mechanism and any software fix will not be able to prevent external attacks.

According to the media report, “The idea behind ‘Pointer Authentication’ is that if all else has failed, you still can rely on it to prevent attackers from gaining control of your system. We’ve shown that pointer authentication as a last line of defense isn’t as absolute as we once thought it was,” said Ravichandran, co-lead author of the MIT paper.

The ‘Pointer Authentication’ feature helps in preventing bugs that could leak private information of the users.

With the ‘PACMAN’ loophole in the ‘Pointer Authentication’ system a serious breach in data is possible.

An Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company wants to “thank the researchers for their collaboration as this proof of concept advances our understanding of these techniques”.

“Based on our analysis as well as the details shared with us by the researchers, we have concluded this issue does not pose an immediate risk to our users and is insufficient to bypass operating system security protections on its own,” the company’s spokesperson added.