processor bug isn’t unique to its chips and performance issues are ‘workload-dependent’ Intel Says

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Intel is responding to claims that the company’s processors have a security bug, and software fixes could slow down PCs. Reports this week have suggested that a security flaw in Intel processors, and allegedly not AMD ones, has led to a redesign of Linux and Windows kernels to protect against a hardware flaw. “Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a ‘bug’ or a ‘flaw’ and are unique to Intel products are incorrect,” says a statement from Intel. “Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits.”

Intel says it’s working with AMD and ARM in a strongly worded statement, despite AMD engineer Tom Lendacky previously saying “AMD processors are not subject to the types of attacks that the kernel page table isolation feature protects against.” Intel says it planned to disclose this issue next week along with other vendors, but that it’s issuing a statement today due to what it angrily describes as “inaccurate media reports.”

Some reports suggested that the software and firmware fixes would cause performance slowdowns on PCs, and Intel doesn’t deny that. “Any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time,” says an Intel spokesperson. Intel does not address the obvious impact to server machines, though.

Intel is recommending that end users should “check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available.” Here’s Intel’s statement in full:

Intel and other technology companies have been made aware of new security research describing software analysis methods that, when used for malicious purposes, have the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed. Intel believes these exploits do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data.

Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a “bug” or a “flaw” and are unique to Intel products are incorrect. Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits.

Intel is committed to product and customer security and is working closely with many other technology companies, including AMD, ARM Holdings and several operating system vendors, to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively. Intel has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate these exploits. Contrary to some reports, any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time.

Intel is committed to the industry best practice of responsible disclosure of potential security issues, which is why Intel and other vendors had planned to disclose this issue next week when more software and firmware updates will be available. However, Intel is making this statement today because of the current inaccurate media reports.

Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available. Following good security practices that protect against malware in general will also help protect against possible exploitation until updates can be applied.

Intel believes its products are the most secure in the world and that, with the support of its partners, the current solutions to this issue provide the best possible security for its customers.

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