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Intel Identifies Root Cause of Meltdown, Spectre Patch Reboot Issues

Intel has identified the root cause of Meltdown and Spectre microprocessor vulnerability patch issues for Broadwell and Haswell platforms, Navin Shenoy, EVP and GM of the company’s data center group, said in a prepared statement. In addition, Intel has rolled out an early version of an updated solution to industry partners for testing, Shenoy noted, and will make a final release available after that testing has been completed.

For the time being, Intel offers the following recommendations to help its customers and partners address faulty Meltdown and Spectre patches:

  • Cloud services providers (CSPs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), system manufacturers, software vendors and end users should stop deployment of current versions of Meltdown and Spectre patches, as they may cause higher-than-expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.
  • Industry partners should test early versions of Intel’s updated Meltdown and Spectre solution to accelerate its release.
  • Intel continues to urge all customers to follow security best practices and for consumers to keep their systems up to date.

Intel last week said Meltdown and Spectre patches caused more frequent reboots on Ivy Bridge-, Sandy Bridge-, Skylake- and Kaby Lake-based platforms. The company tested Meltdown and Spectre patches on server platforms running two-socket Intel Xeon Scalable systems, Shenoy indicated, and found the patches slowed system performance.

To date, Intel has issued firmware updates for 90 percent of its CPUs introduced in the past five years, the company stated. Intel also plans to release updates for the remainder of its CPUs by the end of the month, according to CEO Brian Krzanich.

Meltdown and Spectre Recap

The first details about Meltdown and Spectre became available January 3. Since that time, Intel has made several moves to address the security bugs and patches associated with them, including:

  • Creating an Internal Cybersecurity Group: Intel plans to launch an internal cybersecurity group led by SVP and Director of Human Resources Leslie Culbertson, The Oregonian reported.
  • Issuing a Security-First Pledge: In an open letter dated January 11, Krzanich vowed to restore confidence in the security of Intel customers’ data as quickly as possible.
  • Working with Customers to Diagnose and Resolve Patch Issues: Intel originally recommended customers apply updates recommended by their system and operating system providers to address faulty Meltdown and Spectre patches, Shenoy stated.

Meltdown and Spectre are present in modern processors produced in the past decade and allow administrator and user programs to identify the layout or contents of protected kernel memory areas, according to The Register. They enable malware and hackers to more easily exploit other security bugs and read the contents of a kernel’s memory that otherwise is hidden from administrator and user processes and programs.

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