Intel Releases Updated Spectre Patch for Skylake Only

/ 2 weeks ago

Intel Spectre

Intel Fixes Spectre Patch for Skylake

Early this year, the Spectre and Meltdown bugs blew up the CPU world. After discovering the flaw in November, Intel has been working hard for a fix. Unfortunately for Intel the first fixes they pushed out caused more problems than they solved. In fact, the bug fixes caused so many issues that Intel decided to pull back on them. After a week or so, Intel is now confident enough to reissue an updated fix, but just for Skylake CPUs.

The Spectre attack works by exploiting the CPU branch predictor. By making a specific bad prediction, the malicious code can infer what is stored in other parts of the memory. This exposes data held by other programs. Microsoft was the first to issue an fix by modifying the OS behaviour. This software fix led to heavy performance degradation with specific workloads. To remedy the issue, Intel released a microcode update, changing the CPU behaviour and restoring performance.

Rest of Intel Lineup Still Waiting in Testing

The first microcode update turned out to be quite buggy, causing systems from Sandy Bridge to Kaby Lake to enter unstable boot loops. The bug was so bad that Microsoft pushed out a patch to disable the Intel code by default. Intel had already identified the flaw but still need to work on a patch. Today, Intel is releasing an updated and nonbuggy microcode update for Skylake CPUs. The update should remedy the previous issue and streamline performance.

Due to unknown issues, the update today is just for Skylake itself. Skylake variants like Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake don’t have a fix yet nor does Skylake SP/X. Furthermore, Haswell and Broadwell users, as well as earlier Core series chip users, are still waiting as well. Intel is promising fixes in the new future is working to test the updated microcode. Given the nature of the microcode fix, it may be that Intel has to tailor the code for each architecture’s specific branch predictor. Perhaps Skylake devices are the most dominant so they are getting the fix first. Hopefully, the other fixes come soon as well.


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