Well 2018 is off to a big start, unfortunately, not the start Intel was hoping for. Intel disclosed that the design of its processors are flawed. However, the company said that this issue will not affect everyday customers.
“The issue is found in how Intel processors work with page tables for handling virtual memory. It is believed that an exploit would be able to observe the content of privileged memory by exploiting a technique called speculative execution. Speculative execution is a part of a methodology called out-of-order execution (OOE), where basically the CPU makes an educated guess on what will happen next based on the data it has. It’s designed to speed up the CPU rather than burn up CPU cycles working its way through a process. It’s all meant to make the CPU as efficient as possible.” Network World – on Intel Processors
Conflicting statements are being made, stating that the security vulnerabilities in Intel, AMD and ARM processors affect almost every PC, smart phone or tablet. Futher explaining that, “the underlying vulnerability is primarily caused by CPU implementation optimization choices. Fully removing the vulnerability requires replacing vulnerable CPU hardware,” says the bulletin.
A short, but brutal, security update from the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERT/CC) lays out exactly how hard these vulnerabilities are going to be to fixed. Stamping out this issue once and for all will require drastic measures, says CERT.
There are operating system and software patches for Microsoft Windows, Google Android, the Linux operating system, and reportedly Apple MacOS that “mitigate the underlying hardware vulnerability,” and are thus worth installing, as CERT/CC writes in its bulletin.
In order to fix the problem in it entirety, Intel will need to redesign a processor that does not rely on speculative execution. And while we wait for those processors to come around, some of the operating system patches that mitigate the risk of a Meltdown or Spectre attack are reported by researchers to carry a hit to processor performance of as much as 30%. That performance hit has critics like Linux creator Linus Torvalds in a frenzy.
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