Intel halts some chip patches as the fixes cause problems

Intel provides reboot issue guidance

More than six months after Google informed Intel that almost all the computers on the planet released in the last 20 years have security holes thanks to a chip design flaw, Intel seems no closer to completely addressing the Meltdown and Spectre issues than it did when it first went public with the news in early January.

Intel pumped the brakes on updates to some of its processors Monday, telling phone and computer makers as well as users to stop updating systems until Intel finishes investigating why the patches were causing devices to reboot unexpectedly.

Intel recently promised that all of its processors from the past five years would be protected against the Meltdown/Spectre vulnerabilities by the end of January, and this is proving to be more hard than expected.

"We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors, and end users stop deployment of current versions on specific platforms", Intel EVP Neil Shenoy writes, "as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior".


Intel will be supplying the patched patches for Haswell and Broadwell CPUs to OEMs and component vendors, not directly to end users. For now, leaving processors unpatched means chips still have the Spectre and Meltdown design flaws.

One partner, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the channel's role is the talk with impacted customers and help them understand what steps are necessary for dealing with the Spectre and Meltdown exploits. Recent statements from Intel and Microsoft confirm that some patches may cause a reduction in system performance, as patching the vulnerabilities means fiddling with processes that are created to speed up CPU performance.

"We continue to urge all customers to vigilantly maintain security best practice and for consumers to keep systems up-to-date", Shenoy continued. Intel first announced that the issue affected Haswell and Broadwell systems, but later expanded the list to include Kaby Lake, Skylake, Ivy Bridge, and Sandy Bridge.

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