Intel Plans Broad Patch Rollout To Tackle Meltdown and Spectre
- By Scott Bekker
To address the recently disclosed Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities affecting most modern processors, Intel will issue security patches for all Intel chips released in the past five years by the end of this month.
News of the patch rollout came from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, speaking at a Monday night keynote to kick off the CES industry conference in Las Vegas.
"For our processors and products introduced in the past five years, Intel expects to issue updates for more than 90 percent of them within a week, and the remaining by the end of January," Krzanich said.
Facing by far the biggest security crisis since he took over as CEO in May 2013, Krzanich used the first two minutes of the keynote to discuss the security issues before pivoting to a more standard, future-oriented keynote focused on Intel's technologies for artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Reports emerged last week that Intel and its hardware, operating system and other industry partners were working on patches for a major vulnerability in processors that could allow an attacker to collect sensitive data from computing devices that were working as designed. Intel confirmed and elaborated on the vulnerabilities in a series of public statements last week.
As he thanked industry partners for their speed and effort to release patches, Krzanich showed a slide with statements from those companies about how systems had already been patched. One statement on the slide from Amazon noted, "This is a vulnerability that has existed for more than 20 years in modern processor architectures like Intel, AMD, and ARM across servers, desktops, and mobile devices."
Krzanich's comments Monday did not address whether Intel planned to release updates for products that were more than 5 years old.
His CES comments were also less emphatic than Intel's public statements from last week in downplaying the possibility of performance hits from the patches, although that lack of emphasis could have been simply an effort to get on with the main keynote.
"We believe the performance impact of these updates is highly workload-dependent. Now as a result, we expect some workloads may have a larger impact than others so we'll continue working with the industry to minimize the impact on those workloads over time," Krzanich said Monday.
Previous Intel statements had added that the performance impact for the average computer user "should not be significant," and the company also released partner statements from Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google describing the impact with words like "not...meaningful," "not...noticeable," "no measurable reduction" and "negligible impact."
Krzanich encouraged users to apply updates as soon as they become available, and said the exploits don't appear to have been used maliciously yet. "As of now we have not received any information that these exploits have been used to obtain customer data, and we're working tirelessly on these issues to ensure it stays that way," he said.
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.