As exciting as the performance for modern computers is, every step forward in technology and engineering can lead to unintentional setbacks in other areas. That’s exactly the case with modern DDR4 memory due to the increasing density that exposes it to vulnerabilities like Rowhammer.
The tighter we pack our technology together for increased efficiency, the more the theoretical concerns become actual. Rowhammer is a physical security exploit that involves repeatedly running a program on a row of DRAM transistors until electricity leaks into adjacent rows. Hackers use this to cause instability in the binary code that can cause the ones and zeroes to misbehave, opening the way for attackers to further manipulate a system.
According to the latest research findings by a group of Google engineers, modern DDR4 memory is entirely exposed to this vulnerability. Considering that DDR4 memory is utilized in practically all of today’s operating computer systems, one can quickly see how this is a huge problem for users and a big opportunity for hackers.
Is it a problem for gamers?
If you’re the type that likes to protect your system and you stick to all of the important common security measures, you’ll likely never have to worry about Rowhammer beating the drums of your DDR4 memory. However, this serves as an important reminder to always abide by safe practices to minimize security risks. Nobody wants to deal with data theft and system hijacking. Unless, of course, you’re one of those YouTubers that takes control of hackers’ computers and posts the videos for entertainment. You saints.
If you’re not a programming wizard, remember the basics. Don’t use unknown software, don’t click random links, and watch out for phishing emails with links. And make sure you’re never mislead to download fake versions of official software like we saw happen recently to MSI.
There are also some other things you can do to avoid the risk of Rowhammer attacks on DDR4. Consider the actual RAM you purchase. Go with a reputable vender, look for features like TRR (Target Row Refresh), or ECC (Error Correction Code). Fortunately, the new DDR5 memory spec includes ECC. Another reason to upgrade later this year, right? There’s always at least one.