Intel Says New Software Updates Make Computers 'Immune' to Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Intel today announced that the firmware updates and software patches that are being released for its CPUs render Intel-based computer systems "immune" to both the Spectre and Meltdown exploits that were widely publicized this week.

Intel has developed and is rapidly issuing updates for all types of Intel-based computer systems -- including personal computers and servers -- that render those systems immune from both exploits (referred to as "Spectre" and "Meltdown") reported by Google Project Zero. Intel and its partners have made significant progress in deploying updates as both software patches and firmware updates.

Intel says updates have been issued for the majority of Intel processor products introduced within the past five years, and by the end of next week, more than 90 percent of processor products from the last five years will be patched.

For Mac users, Apple has already addressed some of the vulnerabilities in the macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 update, and further updates will come in macOS High Sierra 10.13.3. To make sure you're protected as a Mac user, install all of the latest operating system updates and firmware patches. As always, it's also worth avoiding suspicious programs, websites, and links.

Intel today also reiterated that the updates that are being released for Mac, PC, and Linux machines should not significantly impact day to day usage and should, for the most part, be unnoticeable. That seems to be true of the macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 update, as there have been no reports of slowdowns from Mac users.

Intel continues to believe that the performance impact of these updates is highly workload-dependent and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time. While on some discrete workloads the performance impact from the software updates may initially be higher, additional post-deployment identification, testing and improvement of the software updates should mitigate that impact.

While hints of an Intel CPU design flaw and security vulnerability surfaced on Tuesday, it wasn't until Wednesday that full details were shared on the Meltdown and Spectre exploits, which take advantage of the speculative execution mechanism of a CPU.

Meltdown impacts Intel CPUs, allowing a malicious program to access data from the memory of running apps, providing passwords, emails, documents, photos, and more. Meltdown can be exploited to read the entire physical memory of a target machine, and it can be done through something as simple as a website. The vulnerability is particularly problematic for cloud-based services.

Spectre, which breaks the isolation between different applications, is a wider hardware-based problem impacting all modern Intel, ARM, and AMD processors. Spectre is harder to exploit than Meltdown, but it is also harder to mitigate.

While patches are going out that appear to prevent the current known Meltdown and Spectre exploits, these speculative execution vulnerabilities will continue to be a problem for years to come, according to security researchers. Similar vulnerabilities will surface, and while performance impacts from software-based workarounds are minor, they're still present.

Paul Kocher, one of the security researchers who helped discover the flaws, told The New York Times that this will be a "festering problem over hardware life cycles." "It's not going to change tomorrow or the day after," he said. "It's going to take awhile."

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
37 months ago

Getting blown into a much bigger deal than it is.

I think that is going to depend on your definition of a "big deal". I know this is going to be a big deal in my world of pen testing for some time to come as exploits get released. Being able to jump from ring 3 to ring 0 is the main goal once gaining a foothold on a system. Additionally, Mozilla has stated they have proven that a browser can be used to exploit these so if XSS can be used to pull memory contents, I'm going to have some fun engagements coming up.

EDIT: I forgot to even discuss the potential issues with host and guest systems. Popping a guest OS and being able to access memory on the host, now we're really talking full compromise.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

Intel today also reiterated that the updates that are being released for Mac, PC, and Linux machines should not significantly impact day to day usage and should, for the most part, be unnoticeable.

However, if you are running any kind of significant workload that access the kernel frequently, such as frequent I/O requests used in database applications, then the impact is actually quite severe. People have seen their cloud services go to crap as the providers apply the patches.

I get that most day to day users may not care about this on their desktops, but step back and think about this a minute. You have a potentially 20-30% CPU performance hit on the cloud. That means that in order to achieve the same performance this week as they did last week, cloud computing providers will have to bump their capacity by potentially 20-30%. Along with that comes more power demands which renewable sources may or may not be able to meet...

Some of you are saying "this is getting blown out of proportions." I say the impacts of this are just starting to be felt.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

I pretty sure that so far they have only worked to patch Meltdown. My system is up to date and the Spectre PoC released by Google still works on my MacBook Pro.

Another instance where I really wish Apple would provide us with some clarification and additional information.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

But then I would have to update to High Sierra..... What to do.......

https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT208331

Possibly not.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

For Mac users, Apple has already addressed the vulnerabilities ('https://www.macrumors.com/2018/01/03/intel-design-flaw-fixed-macos-10-13-2/') in the macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 update, and further updates will come in macOS High Sierra 10.13.3.

I pretty sure that so far they have only worked to patch Meltdown. My system is up to date and the Spectre PoC released by Google still works on my MacBook Pro.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

But then I would have to update to High Sierra..... What to do.......

Is there something stopping you from updating to High Sierra? It works great.
[doublepost=1515110243][/doublepost]

Does this affect a Mac running Mavericks?

Yes.
[doublepost=1515110410][/doublepost]

I’m really curious to see some benchmarks of before and after. Gladly with this amount of people with too much free time on websites such as this I can be confident there will be plenty soon.

Benchmarks will be pretty non-informative, as benchmarking software tends to max out the CPU and therefore may over-exaggerate the effects that one would experience. It's been reported that the fixes are "barely noticeable" in day-to-day computing. Only very specific applications may run into a performance reduction, and likely not as noticeable as media wants us to believe.
[doublepost=1515110506][/doublepost]

What about people that don’t want to upgrade to 10.13? My 2013 MBP is still running El Cap. We’re these released in security updates??

Do yourself a favour. Update to 10.13 AND ensure you are using an SSL internally, and your four-year old computer will feel newer than new. Performance will be incredible.

Is there something keeping you on El Cap other than fear?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Google Reportedly Pays Apple $8-12 Billion Per Year to be Default iOS Search Engine

Sunday October 25, 2020 2:59 pm PDT by
The United States Justice Department is targeting a lucrative deal between Apple and Google as part of one of the U.S. government's largest antitrust cases, reports The New York Times. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the Mountain View-based company used anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and advertising markets to ...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Six-Foot Drop Test Results: Ceramic Shield More Durable But Not Damage Proof

Monday October 26, 2020 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a new Ceramic Shield screen that Apple says offers 4x better drop performance. To test that claim, Allstate Protection Plans put the two models through a range of breakability tests and recorded the results. In a face down sidewalk drop test at six feet, the iPhone 12 suffered small cracks and scuffed corners and edges, leaving sharp grooves in ...

Bloomberg: New AirPods and AirPods Pro Coming in 2021, AirPods Studio Delayed, Third HomePod Model Also Possible

Monday October 26, 2020 3:34 am PDT by
Apple plans to update its AirPods line next year with two new models including third-generation AirPods and second-generation AirPods Pro, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on two new models: third-generation entry-level AirPods and the second version of the AirPods Pro earbuds, according to people familiar with the plans. ...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...