Intel Chips with Built-In Meltdown and Spectre Protections To Be Introduced in 2018

Intel Chips with Built-In Meltdown and Spectre Protections To Be Introduced in 2018

Intel expects to begin shipping its first chips with built-in protection against the Meltdown and Spectre attacks later this year, company CEO Brian Krzanich said.

The company has “assigned some of our very best minds” to work on addressing the vulnerability that’s exploited by those attacks, Krzanich said on a conference call following Intel’s quarterly earnings announcement. That will result in “silicon-based” changes to the company’s future chips, he said.

“We’ve been working around clock” to address the vulnerability and attacks, Krzanich said. But, he added, “we’re acutely aware we have more to do.”

The Spectre and Meltdown attacks exploit a feature called speculative execution that’s present in nearly all the chips Intel has made over the last 20 years. The Meltdown attack also affects chips from AMD and those based on ARM designs and, in turn, nearly every PC, smartphone and tablet made in recent years. The attacks, which were made public earlier this month, could allow malicious actors to get access to secret data stored on computers, including passwords.

So far, the fixes for the chip vulnerability have come in the form of software updates provided by Intel, Microsoft, and others. Those software patches can cause a PC’s performance to slow down in certain circumstances, however.

And earlier this week, Intel was forced to tell customers to delay installing its software patch after discovering that it caused certain PCs to unexpectedly reboot. The embarrassing situation was worsened after Linux creator Linus Torvalds publicly blasted Intel’s patches as “garbage.”

Security has always been a priority for Intel, Krzanich said. But, he added, it’s “an ongoing journey.”

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