Intel Chips Have Memory Access Design Flaw and Fix Could Lead to Performance Drop

A serious design flaw and security vulnerability has been discovered in Intel's CPUs that will require an update at the operating system level to fix, reports The Register. All modern computers with Intel chips from the last 10 years appear to be affected, including those running Windows, Linux, and macOS.

macbookpro

Similar operating systems, such as Apple's 64-bit macOS, will also need to be updated - the flaw is in the Intel x86 hardware, and it appears a microcode update can't address it. It has to be fixed in software at the OS level, or go buy a new processor without the design blunder.

Full details on the vulnerability aren't yet known as the information is currently under embargo until later in the month. The Register has unearthed some data, however, and it seems the bug allows normal user programs to see some of the contents of the protected kernel memory.

This means malicious programs can potentially, in a worst case scenario, read the contents of the kernel memory, which can include information like passwords, login keys, and more. It's not yet clear how severe the bug is, but The Register speculates that it's significant given the rapid changes being made to Windows and Linux.

At worst, the hole could be abused by programs and logged-in users to read the contents of the kernel's memory. Suffice to say, this is not great. The kernel's memory space is hidden from user processes and programs because it may contain all sorts of secrets, such as passwords, login keys, files cached from disk, and so on. Imagine a piece of JavaScript running in a browser, or malicious software running on a shared public cloud server, able to sniff sensitive kernel-protected data.

To fix the bug, the kernel's memory needs to be isolated from user processes using Kernel Page Table Isolation, which could cause a performance hit on some machines. According to The Register, Linux and Windows machines will see a 5 to 30 percent slowdown once the fix is in place.

It's not yet clear how Macs will be impacted, as there is little information available at this time. Software updates are in the works for Linux and Windows, and though not mentioned, Apple is also likely working on a fix for the issue.

Full details on what's known about the vulnerability can be found at The Register, and additional information will be available later this month when complete details on the design flaw are shared.

Popular Stories

iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

iPhone 16 Series Is Just Two Months Away: Everything We Know

Monday July 15, 2024 4:44 am PDT by
Apple typically releases its new iPhone series around mid-September, which means we are about two months out from the launch of the iPhone 16. Like the iPhone 15 series, this year's lineup is expected to stick with four models – iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Plus, iPhone 16 Pro, and iPhone 16 Pro Max – although there are plenty of design differences and new features to take into account. To bring ...
maxresdefault

Apple's AirPods Pro 2 vs. Samsung's Galaxy Buds3 Pro

Saturday July 13, 2024 8:00 am PDT by
Samsung this week introduced its latest earbuds, the Galaxy Buds3 Pro, which look quite a bit like Apple's AirPods Pro 2. Given the similarities, we thought we'd compare Samsung's new earbuds to the AirPods Pro. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design wise, you could potentially mistake Samsung's Galaxy Buds3 Pro for the AirPods Pro. The Buds3 Pro have the same...
iPhone 15 Pro Cameras

iPhone 17 Pro Max Will Be First Model to Feature Three 48MP Cameras

Thursday July 11, 2024 12:20 am PDT by
Next year's iPhone 17 Pro Max will feature an upgraded 48-megapixel Tetraprism camera for enhanced photo quality and zoom functionality, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In his n-iphone-tetraprism-upgrade-ca62dd37e364">latest investor note published to Medium, Kuo said the key specification change would be a 1/2.6" 48MP CIS sensor, up from the 1/3.1" 12MP sensor expected to be used...
Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

10 Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Monday July 8, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models simultaneously, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different – already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
primeday2020 feature3

The Best Early Prime Day Deals on Apple Products

Saturday July 13, 2024 6:23 am PDT by
Amazon is soon to be back with its annual summertime Prime Day event, lasting for just two days from July 16-17. As it does every year, Prime Day offers shoppers a huge selection of deals across Amazon's storefront, and there are already many deals you can get on sale ahead of the event. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may...

Top Rated Comments

koruki Avatar
85 months ago
Intel to offer $29 battery replacements soon
Score: 77 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thadoggfather Avatar
85 months ago
what In the hell?
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NT1440 Avatar
85 months ago
This is absolutely massive news.
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ck2875 Avatar
85 months ago
According to The Register, Linux and Windows machines will see a 5 to 30 percent slowdown once the fix is in place. It's not yet clear how Macs will be impacted,
Slowdowns you say? Maybe my MBP will see improved battery life. ;)
Score: 47 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ZZ Bottom Avatar
85 months ago
That’s why I won’t give up my Pentium III.
Score: 47 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BornAgainMac Avatar
85 months ago
The flaw is so old that it even affects the currently selling Mac Mini!!!!
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)