Intel Vulnerability Fixes May Impact Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure Cloud Performance

Forthcoming operating system patches designed to protect Linux and Windows from an Intel processor security flaw may impact Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and every other cloud services provider (CSP) that leverages Intel systems, according to a report.

Original MSSP Alert report from January 2, 2017 continues below: Indeed, major operating system software updates could impact system performance — across  notebooks, desktops, servers and cloud systems — by as much as 30 percent, according to The Register.

Security-minded updates for AWS and Azure apparently will arrive January 5 and January 10, respectively — though it’s unclear if the forthcoming CSP updates specially address the aforementioned Intel processor design flaw.

Microsoft Patching Tuesday: Clues Coming?

Still, the industry is buzzing about an apparent race to patch major operating systems against an Intel processor design flaw. According to The Register:

“Programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel’s virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December.”

Like Microsoft and the Linux ecosystem, Apple apparently will need to update macOS to address the processor design flaw. Some older Intel chips could suffer 30 percent slowdowns once the software updates are in place, the report estimates. But newer chips featuring PCID may dramatically reduce the performance hit, according to the coverage.

Cloud Services Providers (CSPs) Impacted?

Concerns about the security hole — and potential patch-related performance issues — extend beyond traditional servers, desktops and laptops. Intel processors power much of the cloud, which means Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and other cloud services providers (CSPs) could experience slowdowns once the operating system updates are applied.

One anonymous engineering analyzing the situation put it this way:

“Putting it all together, I would not be surprised if we start 2018 with the release of the mother of all hypervisor privilege escalation bugs, or something similarly systematic as to drive so much urgency, and the presence of so many interesting names on the patch set’s CC list.”

MSSP Alert has not independently confirmed reports about the forthcoming software updates and alleged performance hits. Public statements from Intel, operating system suppliers and CSPs are hard to come by. We’ve reached out to Intel for a statement and will update the article if/when we hear anything official.

Also, we’re reaching out to MSP-centric software suppliers to see if or how their RMM (remote monitoring and management) support tools will potentially help to patch Intel systems if/when the operating system updates are available.

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