Intel says newer chips also experience sudden reboots after Meltdown-Spectre fixes

Nichole Vega
January 19, 2018

This malware, known as Smoke Loader, looks to be an official patch but will actually let malware loose on your computer, posing potentially a greater threat than the original Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

"We have received reports from a few customers of higher system reboots after applying firmware updates", Shenoy said in a January 11 blog post.

I'll be covering two topics in this blog post: our progress in rolling out firmware updates for the exploits, as well as addressing the reboot issue I discussed last week; and initial data from the benchmarking we are doing on data center platforms.

Shenoy says Intel has reproduced the issues internally and is working to identify the root cause.

The Santa Clara, Calif. -based company said it would provide a beta microcode to vendors for validation in the next week.

As part of its quest to ensure "transparency" after initially insisting that the fixes for design flaws in its chips wouldn't cause problems, Intel acknowledged late Wednesday that those fixes were causing additional problems.

According to Intel VP and general manager of the Data Center Group, Navin Shenoy, updates to PCs with Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and the current flagship Kaby Lake processors were just as vulnerable as those packing older Broadwell ad Haswell chips.

Shenoy said that the company had issued patches for 90% of the chips released over the past five years. Lisa Su says that their processors are as good as Intel processors. "Generally speaking, the workloads that incorporate a larger number of user/kernel privilege changes and spend a significant amount of time in privileged mode will be more adversely impacted", he said, which pretty much echoes what we've heard before. Intel's stress tests - which, in this case, means a 100% write case - showed an 18% decrease in performance, though switching to a 70/30 read/write model improved things drastically, bringing the performance hit up to 2%.

The impact appears to be minimal in most cases, with Intel seeing a 0-2 percent performance on industry standard measures of integer and floating point throughput, Linkpack, Stream, server-side Java, and energy efficiency benchmarks.

At worst, Intel's testing shows performance can slow by as much as 25% in certain, data heavy workload scenarios. One of the options it's looking at is Retpoline, the technique a Google engineer conjured up to protect the tech titan's systems from the second variant of Spectre without affecting performance.

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