Intel Wrestled With Chip Flaws for Months

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Intel said the processor side-channel analysis security issues known as Spectre and Meltdown are not a result of flaws in processors, which are performing as designed.

While security flaws are typically limited to a specific company or product, Intel says the problem is "not a bug or a flaw in Intel products" but rather a broader problem affecting processing techniques common to modern computing platforms.

There's no evidence that bad actors have yet exploited the bugs, but companies from Microsoft to Mozilla said this week they have worked to patch up vulnerabilities to their operating systems and browsers to protect against one of the bugs.

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According to a blog post from the Google Project Zero team, one of the first research teams to notice the potential impact of the side-channel analysis issue in processors from Intel, AMD, and ARM Holdings, there are three possible ways it could be exploited, based on proofs-of-concept tests it developed. The other, Spectre, is harder to fix, but also harder to exploit, making it less of an immediate threat to consumer devices.

Steve Smith, Intel's corporate vice president and general manager for data center engineering, late Wednesday told financial analysts that the security issues lie in the approach researchers used to compromise a system, and not in the processors themselves.

The tech giant says computers powered with hardware by AMD, Intel's biggest competitor, are also affected. On most of our workloads, including our cloud infrastructure, we see negligible impact on performance. Microsoft has issued security patch for Windows 10 machines that automatically get downloaded to prevent any risk while Apple has confirmed that Meltdown flaw has been fixed with the macOS 10.13.2 update. (Which it still says hasn't tangibly affected performance for the majority of its audience.) This statement from Intel is aimed to double down on reassuring users that the problem is well on the way to being fixed.

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The Spectre flaw was more serious and it affects chips from AMD, ARM, and Intel.

In December, Apple came under fire for iPhone software changes that reduced the performance of some older models of its smartphone. The company said it had planned to make vulnerabilities public next week.

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