Intel Is Working on Chip-Level Patches for Spectre, Meltdown

During Intel's announcements about Q4 and 2017 earnings yesterday, CEO Brian Krzanich said the company is working to update its processors to prevent Spectre and Meltdown, two major vulnerabilities discovered last year. Krzanich added that the first of those revamped chips will come out later this year.

Spectre and Meltdown affect practically all CPUs that have been produced by Intel -- as well as many from ARM and AMD -- since the late 1990s, and security researchers warn the impacts of those vulnerabilities could haunt the IT industry for years to come. Both bugs affect how processors manage kernel memory, creating the potential for malicious actors to access memory anywhere on a device.

Intel's announcement comes a few days before Data Privacy Day, an annual observation in the U.S. and Canada sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance. Held every Jan. 28, the theme of this year's Data Privacy Day is "Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data and Enabling Trust."

Despite the fact its chips have been at the center of the Spectre and Meltdown storm, Intel has not yet seen an impact to its bottom line, executives reported yesterday during the company's earnings call. In fact, Krzanich said 2017 was "a record year for Intel," and the company expects to benefit greatly in the year ahead from the corporate tax cut package recently approved by Congress.

First Silicon-Based Fixes Out Later this Year

While news of the chip vulnerabilities emerged to the public early this month, Intel and other companies had already been working on software-based patches to reduce the security risks in microprocessors found in everything from PCs and laptops to servers and smartphones. However, some of those efforts were slowed after early fixes caused devices to reboot and otherwise behave unpredictably. Patches also slowed down the processing speeds of some computers....

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