Intel CEO Pledges Commitment to Security Following Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

intelIntel CEO Brian Krzanich today wrote an open letter to Intel customers following the "Meltdown" and "Spectre" hardware-based vulnerabilities that impact its processors.

In the letter, Krzanich says that by January 15, updates will have been issued for at least 90 percent of Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years, with updates for the remainder coming at the end of January.

For Apple customers, macOS and iOS devices have been patched with protection against Spectre and Meltdown. Meltdown was addressed in macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 and iOS 11.2, while Spectre mitigations were introduced in a macOS 10.13.2 supplemental update and iOS 11.2.2, both of which were released this week. The vulnerabilities have also been addressed in older versions of macOS and OS X.

According to Krzanich, going forward, Intel promises to offer timely and transparent communications, with details on patch progress and performance data. Because Spectre and Meltdown are hardware-based vulnerabilities, they must be addressed through software workarounds. In some cases, these software patches cause machines to perform more slowly.

Apple users do not need to worry about performance impacts. According to Apple, Meltdown had no measurable reduction in performance on devices running macOS and iOS across several benchmarks. Spectre, fixed through a Safari mitigation, had no measurable impact on most tests, but did impact performance by less than 2.5% on the JetStream benchmark. Apple says it plans to continue to refine its mitigations going further.

In addition to remaining transparent about the performance impact of the software fixes, Krzanich says Intel will commit to disclosing security vulnerabilities and sharing hardware innovations that will, in the future, prevent such attacks.

Our customers' security is an ongoing priority, not a one-time event. To accelerate the security of the entire industry, we commit to publicly identify significant security vulnerabilities following rules of responsible disclosure and, further, we commit to working with the industry to share hardware innovations that will accelerate industry-level progress in dealing with side-channel attacks. We also commit to adding incremental funding for academic and independent research into potential security threats.

For those who missed the news last week, Spectre and Meltdown are serious hardware-based vulnerabilities that take advantage of the speculative execution mechanism of a CPU, potentially allowing hackers to gain access to sensitive information.

Spectre and Meltdown impact all modern processors, including those used in Mac and iOS devices, and these two vulnerabilities will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future as addressing them entirely requires new hardware design. Apple has prevented Spectre and Meltdown from affecting customers through software updates, but all hardware and software manufacturers will need to be wary of additional speculative execution attacks going forward.

Apple customers should make sure to keep their Macs and iOS devices up to date with the latest software to remain protected from malicious attacks that might take advantage of the exploits.

Top Rated Comments

eicca Avatar
38 months ago
The stark truth is nothing in the digital realm will ever be truly safe. Ever.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
OldSchoolMacGuy Avatar
38 months ago
Won't hurt them in the long run. Their stock has been great and will continue to be.

It's not as if companies really have another option. Yes AMD exists but companies aren't going to switch everything over (and AMD was vulnerable too).

Few months from now people won't even be talking about this.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dampfnudel Avatar
38 months ago
Okay, what about future processors like Ice Lake which I believe is scheduled for release next year? Should people not purchase any new Macs or Windows PCs until it’s confirmed that they’re free of this vulnerability? Will there be any compensation for customers who purchased a Mac or Windows PC with the hardware vulnerability and are now experiencing more than just a small performance degradation in their daily workflow. Just telling us about software “workarounds” that won’t impact performance “too much” isn’t good enough.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nt5672 Avatar
38 months ago
Great PR speech. Trust us, we'll do better next time.

How about telling us how this slipped through for so long and what changes are being made to make sure there we have minimal risk of other security holes like this. Do this, and we might believe you.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
joema2 Avatar
37 months ago

As far as I understand it, AMD CPUs are only affected by Spectre V1, but Intel CPUs affected by Spectre V1, Spectre V2 and Meltdown....No Ryzen CPUs are affected by this...

That is not correct. AMD CPUs (including Ryzen) are affected by both Specter V1 and V2:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-microchips-amd/amd-chips-exposed-to-both-variants-of-spectre-security-flaw-idUSKBN1F0314

Spectre and/or Meltdown also affects Oracle (formerly Sun) SPARC: https://sp.ts.fujitsu.com/dmsp/Publications/public/Intel-Side-Channel-Analysis-Method-Security-Review-CVE2017-5715-vulnerability-Fujitsu-products.pdf

Spectre also affects IBM System Z mainframes, POWER8 and POWER9: https://access.redhat.com/security/vulnerabilities/speculativeexecution

Meltdown and Spectre affect certain ARM CPUs, including those used in the Nintendo Switch console: http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2018/01/cpu_exploits_meltdown_and_spectre_could_potentially_affect_nintendo_switch

Since the main criteria for Spectre vulnerability are (a) speculative execution and (b) branch prediction, it probably affects older RISC CPUs like the DEC Alpha 21264 and MIPS R10000: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_21264

All of the above use out-of-order execution, speculative execution and branch prediction. Some CPUs use in-order speculative execution and branch prediction, such as the ARM A8, but are still vulnerable. A long list of ARM CPUs are affected, including A75, A73, A72, A57, A17, A15, A9, A8, R8, and R7: https://developer.arm.com/support/security-update

So CPUs with speculative in-order execution can be affected, not just the more common out-of-order type. While Intel's Itanium is mentioned as immune to Spectre, I'm not certain of that. Despite the VLIW in-order design, it heavily uses speculation and hardware branch prediction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itanium

Itanium is a factor from a planning standpoint because the architecture is totally different from most other CPUs, yet it may still be affected. If so, this indicates how broad Spectre is and how fundamentally the problem must be approached from the standpoint of CPU redesign.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SecuritySteve Avatar
38 months ago
Total PR stunt. The severity of these vulnerabilities does not warrant this kind of apology.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

0 Deals Hero

Black Friday 2020: Best Apple Deals to Plan For

Saturday November 21, 2020 10:00 am PST by
In the lead-up to Black Friday next week, we've been putting a spotlight on the best deals coming from various retailers like Best Buy and Walmart. In an effort to further prepare our readers for the best Black Friday deals, we're breaking down what we think should be on your radar for Black Friday in 2020. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
2020 apple shopping event

Apple Offering Up to $150 Gift Card With Select Products on Black Friday Through Cyber Monday

Monday November 23, 2020 2:53 am PST by
Apple has announced its annual four-day shopping event, offering customers up to a $150 Apple Store gift card with the purchase of select products between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. The gift card values in the United States are as follows: $150 for 16-inch MacBook Pro $150 for 21.5-inch iMac $50 for 13-inch MacBook Pro $50 for MacBook Air $50 for iPhone SE,...
m1 mac mini vignette

Apple Lists M1-Based Mac Mini Logic Boards With 10 Gigabit Ethernet in Internal Parts Ordering System

Friday November 20, 2020 9:32 am PST by
While the new Mac mini with the M1 chip is only available with Gigabit Ethernet, Apple has listed multiple M1-based Mac mini logic boards with 10 Gigabit Ethernet in an internal parts list for Apple Authorized Service Providers. For every Mac mini logic board with Gigabit Ethernet in the parts list, obtained by MacRumors, there is a corresponding logic board with 10 Gigabit Ethernet:...
ipad pro 2020 display

Black Friday Week Kicks Off With Up to $150 Savings on 2020 iPad Pro

Sunday November 22, 2020 2:37 pm PST by
As we head into Black Friday week, we're seeing some of the best deals of the season so far, with Amazon and Best Buy today discounting the latest iPad Pro models by up to $150 at the lowest prices we've ever tracked on these models. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep ...
macos big sur m1 macs restore issue

Apple Provides Instructions to Fix macOS Reinstallation Errors on M1 Macs

Sunday November 22, 2020 3:30 pm PST by
Shortly after the launch of Apple's new M1 Macs, we saw reports that attempts to restore and reinstall macOS on those machines right away could result in an installation error that would leave your Mac non-functional. Specifically, the error message would read: "An error occurred preparing the update. Failed to personalize the software update. Please try again." Over the weekend, Apple p...
iPhone 6s main

Rumor Claims iOS 15 to Drop Support for iPhone 6s and Original iPhone SE

Sunday November 22, 2020 9:25 am PST by
Apple will drop support for the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus in next year's release of iOS 15, according to a rumor shared today by Israeli site The Verifier. If the rumor is accurate, that would mean iOS 15 will be compatible with the following Apple devices: 2021 iPhone series iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 12 mini iPhone 12 iPhone 11 iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro ...
new m1 chip

Craig Federighi: Native Windows on M1 Macs is 'Really up to Microsoft'

Friday November 20, 2020 11:57 am PST by
Following the release of the M1 Macs Apple executives have been doing interviews with a range of publications, and today, Ars Technica published another interview with software engineering chief Craig Federighi, hardware technologies lead Johny Srouji, and marketing VP Greg Joswiak. Much of the interview focuses on topics that the three have already covered in prior discussions, but there is ...
Walmart November Deals Hero

Black Friday Spotlight: Walmart Will Have AirPods Pro Down to Lowest Price of $169, and More Apple Deals

Thursday November 19, 2020 8:05 am PST by
We've been tracking early Black Friday deals in our dedicated Black Friday Roundup, and in an effort to prepare our readers for the big shopping event we're highlighting sales store-by-store in the lead-up to November 27. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Walmart. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Next ...
xlK6MS4MLqVFaskl

iFixit Shares iPhone 12 Pro Max Teardown Revealing L-Shaped Battery and Bigger Camera Module

Sunday November 22, 2020 2:53 am PST by
In the last of its iPhone 12 series teardowns, iFixit has published its iPhone 12 Pro Max disassembly, which reveals some unique differences in the design of the internals, including the full extent of the larger camera system responsible for the improved low-light performance on Apple's largest iPhone to date. On opening the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the first obvious difference compared to the...
apple leather sleeve

Leather Sleeve for iPhone 12 Models Now Available From Apple

Friday November 20, 2020 12:16 pm PST by
Apple today began selling the Leather Sleeve for the new iPhone 12 models, with the accessory having first been announced alongside the updated iPhones in October. Priced at $129, the Leather Sleeve is not a case and is designed to be removed when the iPhone is in use. It features a cutout at the front that displays the time, and it comes with a matching leather strap. According to Apple, it ...