Meltdown/Spectre Firmware Updates Causing Reboots for Some Intel Customers

Pablo Tucker
January 13, 2018

The second Variant, which again is part of Spectre, proved much more hard to patch, as Google was specifically trying to avoid a hit to performance.

All eyes were on Krzanich at CES 2018 as he gave the show's opening keynote, just days after experts in Google found the flaw in the chips made by Intel.

As if dealing with Meltdown and Spectre wasn't enough of a mess already, Intel has revealed that its firmware updates are causing problems on some older PCs.

For some time, Google says "it appeared that disabling the vulnerable CPU features would be the only option for protecting all our workloads against Variant 2".

The real headache for Google turned out to be Spectre Variant 2.

Intel is facing a growing number of lawsuits, including claims from groups of consumers alleging that it misled consumers by failing to disclose the security hole and demands for compensation based on the potential slower performance of machines that have been patched.

Both Microsoft and AMD have confirmed that they will be making the Meltdown and Spectre security updates available for Windows devices with AMD chips once again starting next week. Rolling out these mitigations would have negatively impacted many customers.

"In September, we began deploying solutions for both Variants 1 and 3 to the production infrastructure that underpins all Google products - from Cloud services to Gmail, Search and Drive - and more-refined solutions in October", Google writes. For instance, cryptographer Paul Kocher told Scientific American this week that Meltdown and Spectre demonstrate a "failure of thought and attention" by chipmakers looking to balance security and performance needs.

As work continues on short-term fixes, many experts agree the technology industry faces a wholesale reckoning of long-established practices that led to these vulnerabilities in the first place. As Google explained it, there are three variants here.

Fortunately though, Google isn't keeping the Retpoline technique a secret.

By using Reptoline, Google was able to modify programs directly, meaning that it didn't need to modify hardware and could therefore avoid the slowdown that would come with those modifications.

"Eighth Generation Core platforms with solid-state storage will see a performance impact of 6% or less".

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