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A screen capture of the AMDflaws.com website. Joe Uchill / Axios

An upstart cybersecurity research group and trading firm claimed Tuesday that security flaws in AMD computer processors "could potentially put lives at risk." But many in the security community say the widely covered report was dangerously overhyped in an attempt to drive down AMD's stock price.

Why it matters: CTS-Labs and Viceroy Research ultimately did not move the market — AMD finished up for the day. But the media bought into the chaos, at least a little, which could have disastrous effects to security-concerned owners of AMD products.

The intrigue: CTS posted a slick website devoted to the AMD flaws they discovered, complete with video interviews and charts and images ready for the media to use — a marketing effort that started at least three weeks ago when the "amdflaws.com" web domain was registered. Yet they only gave AMD 24 hours to patch the issues before going public.

  • The industry standard is to give at least 90 days for a company to demonstrate it is working on a patch before going public.

What they're saying: Viceroy Research claims the vulnerabilities should be enough to bankrupt AMD. In its report, it wrote "We believe AMD is worth $0.00 and will have no choice but to file for Chapter 11 (Bankruptcy) in order to effectively deal with the repercussions of recent discoveries."

  • In its own report, CTS ends with a disclaimer acknowledging it may be betting against AMD's stock price. "[W]e may have, directly or indirectly, an economic interest in the performance of the securities of the companies whose products are the subject of our reports."

What independent researchers are saying: Many researchers note that the white paper released by CTS provides no technical detail, making it impossible to evaluate the claims. But the suite of four potential attacks described by CTS are, at a minimum, already covered by one layer of computer security. All of them essentially require the computer to have already been hacked before they can be used to inflict more damage. In short, it can make bad worse, but not create the bad.

  • "It feels like they may have some valid security research and they’ve come up with a case study how not to disclose it," said researcher Kevin Beaumont. "It feels like a press exploit on top of vulnerability research."
  • Rapid7 Research Director Tod Beardsley emailed that one of the vulnerabilities appears to simply be that the user might intentionally install malware onto a component known as the BIOS. "In the end, an 'unauthorized BIOS update' is, itself, an attack that is usually mitigated by normal operating system, firmware, and physical controls," he wrote via email.
  • Even the outside expert used by CTL-Labs — Dan Guido, CEO of Trail of Bits —
    was skeptical about the marketing push behind the flaws, tweeting "Regardless of the hype around the release, the bugs are real, accurately described in their technical report (which is not public afaik), and their exploit code works."

Go deeper

Trump sues New York Times and his niece over tax report

Former President Trump hosting a boxing match in Hollywood, Florida on Sept. 11. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against the New York Times and his niece Mary Trump on Tuesday over the news outlet's reporting on his tax records, the Daily Beast first reported.

Details: The lawsuit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, alleges the NYT "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records" and that it "convinced" Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times."

House passes government funding, debt ceiling bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to fund the government through early December, along with a measure to raise the debt ceiling through December 2022.

Why it matters: The stopgap measure, which needs to be passed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires on Sept. 30, faces a difficult journey in the Senate where at least ten Republicans would need to vote in favor.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The Democrats' debt dilemma

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats find themselves in a political and potentially catastrophic economic quagmire as Republicans stand firm on denying them any help in raising the federal debt ceiling.

Why it matters: The Democrats are technically right — the debt comes, in part, from past spending by President Trump and his predecessors, not only President Biden's new big-ticket programs. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is saddling them with the public relations challenge of making that distinction during next year's crucial midterms.