Intel: Meltdown And Spectre Patch Slowing Our Newer Chips As Well

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Last week, it was reported that the Intel Meltdown and Spectre patch was resulting in a reboot issue for older processors. Now, it appears that the contagious virus is affecting new chips as well.

Intel Meltdown and Spectre patch – how it’s impacting performance

On Wednesday, the chipmaker confirmed that the security patches are causing higher than expected reboot for computers with newer chips. Last week, Intel confirmed that only its older Broadwell and Haswell chips were facing unexpected reboots due to the Intel Meltdown and Spectre patch. Now, according to Intel VP Navin Shenoy, the firmware-updated PCs powered by Skylake, Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and the latest Kaby Lake processors are facing a reboot problem as well.

According to Intel, the security updates do protect the chips against the potential Meltdown and Spectre attacks, but once the firmware is updated, the machines with newer chips are rebooting more frequently. The company also quantified the issues (in terms of performance) for the data center customers.

The patches lead to a 2% slowdown for regular tasks like running website servers, while online transactions at a stock brokerage suffered a 4% slowdown, the chipmaker said. For some of the tasks involving servers having to store and retrieve huge amounts of data, the slowdown could extend to 18 to 25%, according to Intel.

How Intel plans to tackle it

To prevent further damage, the chipmaker has updated its original Meltdown-Spectre advisory, asking OEMs and cloud providers to first test its beta silicon microcode updates before the final release.

“Intel recommends that these partners, at their discretion, continue development and release of updates with existing microcode to provide protection against these exploits, understanding that the current versions may introduce issues such as reboot in some configurations,” the chipmaker said, in a blog post.

Shenoy said that the company had issued patches for 90% of the chips released over the past five years. However, the executive admitted that there is “more work to do,” adding that the initial versions of fixes for the buggy patches would be released by next week.

“We have reproduced these issues internally and are making progress toward identifying the root cause,” he said.

Congressman demands explanation

Earlier this year, the chipmaker confirmed that its chips are affected by Spectre and Meltdown flaws, potentially allowing hackers to steal secure information. The flaws affected not just Intel, but almost every computing device with chips from AMD and ARM as well. The Meltdown and Spectre bugs were privately disclosed to the chipmakers in June of last year, but the issues became public after a series of leaks earlier this month.

Now, the chipmakers are also facing questions from Congress asking them to explain the whole situation. Earlier this week, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) requested a briefing from Intel, AMD, and ARM representatives on how the vulnerabilities impact the users, according to The Verge.

In a letter, McNerney notes that these vulnerabilities are “glaring warning signs that we must take cybersecurity more seriously.” If hackers are successful in exploiting them, then “the effects on consumers’ privacy and our nation’s economy and security would be absolutely devastating,” the letter read.

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