Intel decides it's not worth patching some CPUs against Spectre

Apr 05, 2018, 00:36
Intel decides it's not worth patching some CPUs against Spectre

In new microcode revision guidance released by the chipmaker, Intel added a "stopped" status to its microcode updates relating to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, which would suggest that it won't be issuing patches to fully mitigate the vulnerabilities affecting a large number of its microprocessors.

Intel's latest guidance has a list of several chipsets that have a "Stopped" status marked against them, denoting they won't be receiving any further patches.

The chip lines affected are largely older, and include: Bloomfield and Bloomfield Xeon, Clarksfield, Gulftown, Harpertown Xeon C0 and E0, Jasper Forest, Penryn/QC, SoFIA 3GR, Wolfdale C0 and M0, Wolfdale E0 and R0, Wolfdale Xeon C0 and Xeon E0, Yorkfield, and Yorkfield Xeon.

A third point that the chip giant makes is that numerous computers running these processors are "closed systems" not connected to the outside world and so unlikely to be exposed to Meltdown and Spectre anyway. In short, the site suggests, it may have run into a wall with Microsoft and motherboard providers, neither of whom are likely to be in too great a hurry to push out updates for PCs more than a decade old.

The processors have micro-architectural characteristics that preclude a practical implementation of features mitigating Variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715). To begin with, Apple relied on IBM and Motorola for designing and developing the processors for the Macs. Intel's notice doesn't list which of these chip families it believes are too hard to patch, and which present a low risk. The Intel Core i9-8950HK has a base clock speed of 2.9GHz and the boost clock is 4.6GHz.

With this policy change, Intel has developed all the Spectre microcode fixes it's going to.

Limited commercially available system software support.

Apple and Intel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Malware makers are experimenting with malware that exploits the Spectre and Meltdown CPU bugs. Intel has also already released microcode updates for every CPU released within the past five years, from Sandy Bridge (2nd generation) onwards.

Our devices may never truly be secure, says the CEO of the company that designs the heart of most mobile chips.

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