Windows update neutralizes Intel Spectre fix

Since the reboot issues on PCs powered by Intel triggered a negative reaction from the rest of the industry, Microsoft and Intel are releasing updates to rollback the Spectre Variant 2 security patch. Microsoft told ZDNet it's now waiting for Intel to release the fixed firmware version after determining "system stability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption".

The Meltdown and Spectre chip flaws were first identified by a member of Google's Project Zero security team shortly before they were independently uncovered and reported by other teams of security researchers. The update does leave the fixes for the two other vulnerabilities that make up the Meltdown and Spectre attacks while removing the buggy code that caused stability issues with Spectre Variant 2. The announcement came after the company revealed that it has issued firmware updates for 90 per cent of Intel CPUs made in the past five years.

Beyond Intel, some chips manufactured by AMD and ARM will also require firmware fixes to protect them from Spectre or Meltdown flaws (see Spectre Reversal: AMD Confirms Chips Have Flaws).

The Windows update can be downloaded from Microsoft's Update Catalog portal.

Jake Williams, head of the security company Rendition Infosec and former National Security Agency (NSA) employee, told the Journal that it is a "near certainty" the Chinese government knew about the flaws from the Intel correspondence with Chinese tech companies, as Beijing keeps tabs on such communications.

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The publication, claiming sources, reported that Intel informed some of their customers about the vulnerabilities before the United States government including Microsoft, Amazon, and Chinese companies Alibaba and Lenovo. In the interim, Microsoft has issued its own patch to disable the fix, which targets the second variant of the Spectre bug, which allows for "Branch Target Injection".

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that they have committed to keeping their customers and owners appraised of their progress and, through their actions.

This is a major problem for Intel in terms of PR, but so far investors don't seem to be spooked. The software giant has explained that the Spectre Variant 2 affects all versions of the operating system, but the company is not aware of any exploitation attempts or attacks.

While year-end financial results released last week show Intel enjoyed record earnings in 2017, the company could yet see long-term fallout from the Spectre and Meltdown hardware bugs.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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