Intel CEO Pledges Commitment to Security Following Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Intel 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

(View all)
Avatar
35 months ago
The stark truth is nothing in the digital realm will ever be truly safe. Ever.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
35 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)
Avatar
35 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)
Avatar
35 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)
Avatar
35 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)
Avatar
35 months ago
Total PR stunt. The severity of these vulnerabilities does not warrant this kind of apology.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Hands-On With iOS 14 Widgets, Custom Icons, and Home Screen Setup

Tuesday September 22, 2020 3:25 pm PDT by
Apple with iOS 14 introduced widgets on the Home Screen, leading to unprecedented levels of customization for the iPhone. Combined with Shortcuts that let you change an app's icon, iOS 14 lets you create a whole new look for your Home Screen. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've been following along with some of the creative alternative Home Screen designs that M...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....

Kuo: Apple to Accelerate Adoption of Mini-LED Displays in iPad and Mac Notebook Lineups

Sunday September 20, 2020 10:00 pm PDT by
Increased competition among Apple's suppliers for mini-LED display chips will accelerate the company's adoption of the advanced technology in its iPad and MacBook lineups, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo says that while Epistar had been predicted to be the exclusive supplier of mini-LED chips for Apple products in 2021, Sanan Optoelectronics...

Interest in iOS 14 Home Screen Ideas Helps Pinterest Break Daily Download Record

Wednesday September 23, 2020 4:37 am PDT by
Apple's introduction of widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 has driven a surge in interest among users looking to customize their iPhone, and that has reportedly had a knock-on effect for Pinterest, whose iOS app has seen record downloads as users flock to its content seeking design inspiration. As reported by TechCrunch, App Store intelligence firm Apptopia was first to note the impact of ...

Apple Releases Eighth Beta of macOS Big Sur to Developers [Update: Public Beta Now Available]

Tuesday September 22, 2020 10:08 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the eighth beta of an upcoming macOS Big Sur update to developers for testing purposes, close to a week after releasing the sixth beta and more than two months after the new update was unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas...

AT&T Already Working on 6G, Says 5G iPhones Might Not Be 'Massive Event' Due to Economic Uncertainty

Monday September 21, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming launch of 5G iPhones might not be a "massive event" due to economic uncertainty amid the global health crisis, AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh said in a paywalled interview published by CNBC. "I do believe that you will see many of the iPhone subscribers move to upgrade to the device," said McElfresh. "But I wouldn't forecast that it's going to be a massive event. I...