NEWS

Thunderbird 78 Ported to Ubuntu 20.04

Ubuntu 20.04.2 has already shipped and the developers found themselves in a tricky position with Thunderbird, the popular open source email client. Essentially they had two choices:

  • Backport individual security fixes to Thunderbird 68.
  • Port the latest version.

One of the most important aspects of Ubuntu is stability. Because of this, the platform doesn't generally ship with the latest releases of software. And initially Ubuntu 20.04 shipped with Thunderbird 68. However, because that version is no longer supported by upstream, it would no longer be receiving security updates.

That's a problem.

So the Ubuntu developers had to choose between two options. Fortunately, they opted to go with porting the latest version of Thunderbird. This will cause an issue for some users, as not all Thunderbird extensions will work with the latest release. For example, now that Thunderbird has native encryption, the Enigmail extension is not only redundant, it simply won't install on the client. This means users accustomed to Enigmail must now get up to speed on Thunderbird's built-in encryption technology.

For those users who prefer installing applications via standard .deb packages, you won't be forced to use either a snap or flatpak version of Thunderbird.

For more information on the decision, check out this post by Ubuntu's own, Oliver Tilloy: https://discourse.ubuntu.com/t/thunderbird-lts-update/20819?u=d0od.

Linux Exploit for Spectre Flaw Discovered

Spectre has been in the public knowledge base since January 9, 2018, when Intel was forced to go public with the information that all of their CPUs (since 1995) can allow applications to be tricked into leaking information they hold in memory. Since then, there have been a number of Spectre exploits, across all operating systems on Intel hardware.

Recently a French researcher, Julien Voisin, announced (https://dustri.org/b/spectre-exploits-in-the-wild.html) he was able to view the contents of /etc/shadow on a vulnerable Fedora system, thereby verifying this new Spectre exploit.

This vulnerability works in four stages:

  • Finding the superblock of a file.
  • Finding the inode of the file to be dumped.
  • Finding the corresponding page address.
  • Dumping the contents of the file.

According to Voisin, this exploit had a 0 detection rate before he published his announcement.

Of this vulnerability, Andrew Cooper, senior software engineer, Citrix, had this to say, "SMAP prevents supervisor code from accessing user memory operands outside of explicitly permitted areas." Cooper continues, "This is enough to prevent the cacheline fill (of a userspace pointer) and break the covert channel. A more sophisticated attack could use a supervisor pointer, e.g. the directmap mapping, or one of a multitude of other covert channels to transmit the same data, which is a higher barrier, but definitely not impossible."

The new Spectre exploit looks to have been created and distributed by a company called Immunity Inc, and VirusTotal allows the downloading of the exploit for a fee.

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