On June 15th, Intel announced their new security capability that will deliver processor-level security structures. They call it Control-Flow Enforcement Technology (CET), and it promises to protect against conventional malware attack methods, which have prevented a challenge when combated using software alone.

Intel CET is first available on Intel’s Tiger Lake platform with Willow Cove microarchitecture. Its design allows it to offer protection against the misuse of legitimate code through control-flow hijack hacks.

These techniques are widely used in several broad classes of malware, which offer software developers key capabilities to protect themselves against control-flow hijacking malware. The malware use methods like shadow stack and indirect branch tracking.

A specific method of attack

Indirect branch tracking gives users indirect branch protection to defend against the jump/call-oriented programming attacks. Shadow stack delivers the return address security to protect against return-oriented programming attacks.

Both methods are said to be attack methods used by malware that is referred to as memory safety issues. They include tactics like corruption of stack buffer overflow and, in other cases, use-after-free.

The way forward

Tom Garrison, the vice-president and general manager of client security strategy and initiatives at Intel said, in a statement, “Intel was the first to tackle these complex security challenges, and we remain committed to working with the industry to drive security innovation.”

He continued to say that Intel recognizes the need to scale OS and application adoption to solve the problem using an industry-wide collaboration. To accelerate the process, they published Intel CET specifications in 2016.

In addition to all this, he said that Intel and Microsoft have been working together closely to prepare Windows 10 and developer tools for the applications and the industry. The aim here is that Microsoft’s support for Intel CET in Windows 10, will be a step in the right direction, for the adoption of Intel CET into other architectures across a wide range of products.