Apple must release an update that will slow down your Mac

Fixing a problem in Apple’s M-chip will likely slow down your Mac. You need to know this.

Apple must release an update that will slow down your Mac

A vulnerability has been discovered in Apple’s M-series chips that cannot be fixed. The issue allows attackers to extract secret encryption keys from Macs under certain circumstances. This is evident from a recently published academic research.

The error cannot be fixed directly because it arises from the design of the silicon itself. It can therefore only be resolved by building something into third-party software. And this can slow down your Mac, especially the M1 and M2 generations.

mac slower

Beware of hardware optimizations

The described cyber attack named ‘GoFetch‘ has to do with Data Memory-Dependent Prefetchers (DMPs). They try to predict what data the computer will need next and retrieve it in advance. This is intended to make processing faster, but it can inadvertently reveal information about what the computer is doing.

By loading the content into the CPU’s cache before it is actually needed, the DMP provides more speed. DMPs are relatively new and only found in M-series chips.

The vulnerability arises because the processors make predictions based on previous patterns. In response to this ‘constant-time programming‘ devised, which ensures that all operations take the same amount of time to complete, regardless of the data they are dealing with. This can cause your Mac to become slower.


Constant-time programming model

The constant-time programming model is intended to provide protection against so-called side-channel attacks. These are types of attacks in which someone can extract sensitive information from a computer system without having direct access to it (for example by observing certain patterns). The idea is that if all operations take the same amount of time, an attacker has less time to observe and exploit the actions.

However, the article discovers that DMPs, especially in Apple Silicon, can leak information. This is possible even if the program is designed not to reveal patterns in the way memory is accessed. The new research finds that the DMPs can sometimes confuse the memory contents, causing it to treat the data as an address to perform memory accesses. That goes against the constant-time model.

New macOS update offers a solution

The authors present GoFetch as a new type of attack that can exploit this vulnerability in DMPs to extract encryption keys from protected software. The attack works against a number of popular encryption algorithms that are thought to be resistant to side-channel attacks.

So it is a problem in the hardware of the Mac, which Apple is now trying to solve with new software. This makes it almost inevitable that your Mac(Book) will become slower after the update. Apple recently released macOS Sonoma 14.4.1, but it does not yet solve the problem. There is therefore a good chance that an update will be released soon that will fix the error.

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