Meltdown – The Intel CPU Security Flaw.
A critical design flaw in Intel based CPUs, going back ten years has been discovered by security researchers. Who have coined the name “meltdown” to describe the bug built into most Intel based chips and by extension most of the worlds computers.
The flaw allows the Kernel memory in most x86-64 operating systems, Windows, Macs and Linux, to be accessed by specially written malware that could then provide a users data to an attacker or allow the attacker to install other software on the compromised system.
While Intel has ramped up its PR machine to downplay the flaw. I find it a bit odd from an ethics viewpoint that their CEO Brian Krzanich, sold 24 million dollars in stock options AFTER Intel was informed of the flaw by Google. As reported by Business Insider…
As a physical replacement (after a redesign) of every CPU sold in the last ten years would be almost impossible to accomplish, its going to have to be a software fix implemented at the operating system level to address this blunder.
Linux programmers already have a Kernel replacement being tested while Apple and Microsoft have made statements their operating systems will be patched in the days and weeks to come.
But due to the nature of the flaw all these fixes will have to bypass or change the way the O/S will address each systems Kernel memory, resulting in a system slowdown of anywhere from 5% to 30%.
So for some end users their computer may lose close to 1/3 of their speed overnight, after the respective patches are applied to their operating system. All to address Intel’s massive screw up.
I am sure the lawyers are already preparing their class action lawsuits as I write this. But it won’t be much help to the regular computer user.
And from a computer repair and support viewpoint, this will mean IT support departments, computer stores and independent computer repair technicians will start to soon receive a large influx of support calls from users that have no idea Intel’s bug is the cause of the coming slowdown and will demand a fix.
And unfortunately one will not be coming soon from Intel, as it takes years to redesign and re tool production for a new or at least updated CPU. And while many people may run out and buy a new computer once they discover their current computer’s performance hit after the patches are installed. It will not really do that much good if they try and get a system with the same specs as they had before. As the chips will still be defective.
While Apple, Microsoft and others have pushed patches to address this issue, it seems that these fixes are not ready for primetime just yet. With AMD chipset users and other systems that use certain antivirus products either being bricked after being updated or stuck in a reboot loop.
At this time as no real world attack has been demonstrated to be out in the “wild” just yet. It may be a better idea to wait to install these patches until they can be demonstrated to be working on the vast majority of systems. Not 100% safe, but better than bricking your system. I am sure in the weeks to come working patches will become available.