Actions

Template

Processor Microcode Updates

From Whonix

One recent example of a firmware vulnerability is the processor microcode update for modern chips to address speculative [archive] execution flaws [archive]. The Debian package [archive] is non-free software, therefore only available in the Debian nonfree repository, meaning it is not installed by default in all Whonix variants. [1] [2] Whonix recommends to avoid nonfree software but in this case idealism would result in insecurity.

It is unnecessary to apply these updates in standard Non-Qubes-Whonix ™ and Qubes-Whonix ™ guest VMs, as they do not have the ability to alter the microcode. However, processor microcode updates should always be applied on the host operating system (for processors by Intel or AMD) [3] and baremetal configurations like Physical Isolation. [4]

Microcode Package Check

In the following checks, the package is not installed if there is no output.

To check whether the microcode package is installed.

Debian based

On the host. Run.

dpkg -l | grep microcode

Qubes

In dom0. Run.

dnf list | grep microcode

The Qubes check should confirm the microcode_ctl.x86_64 package is already installed. [5]

Install Microcode Package

Intel

Install intel-microcode.

1. Update the package lists.

sudo apt-get update

2. Upgrade the system.

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

3. Install the intel-microcode package.

sudo apt-get install intel-microcode

The procedure of installing intel-microcode is complete.

AMD

Install amd64-microcode.

1. Update the package lists.

sudo apt-get update

2. Upgrade the system.

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

3. Install the amd64-microcode package.

sudo apt-get install amd64-microcode

The procedure of installing amd64-microcode is complete.

spectre-meltdown-checker

It is possible to check if the system is vulnerable to the Spectre [archive] and Meltdown [archive] attacks, which use flaws in modern chip design to bypass system protections.

Installation

Install spectre-meltdown-checker.

1. Update the package lists.

sudo apt-get update

2. Upgrade the system.

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

3. Install the spectre-meltdown-checker package.

sudo apt-get install spectre-meltdown-checker

The procedure of installing spectre-meltdown-checker is complete.

Usage

sudo spectre-meltdown-checker --paranoid ; echo $?

Forum Discussion

See: https://forums.whonix.org/t/whonix-vulerable-due-to-missing-processor-microcode-packages/5739 [archive]

  1. Relevant Debian packages for processor microcode: Intel [archive] and amd64 [archive].
  2. Installing these updates by default would require the Debian nonfree repository, and logically also make Whonix images nonfree.
  3. ARM is less affected than Intel architecture.
  4. See: https://forums.whonix.org/t/whonix-vulerable-due-to-missing-processor-microcode-packages/5739 [archive]
  5. This package is installed by default in Qubes to automatically protect users against hardware threats.