Microsoft Resumes Meltdown & Spectre Updates for AMD Devices

Mindy Sparks
January 19, 2018

Created to provide mitigation against the Spectre Variant 2 speculative execution vulnerability, which allows unprivileged processes to access supposedly-protected memory on nearly all modern mainstream processor families, Intel's microcode update was released earlier this month.

Sadly for those looking to protect their systems from attack, Intel's update on the flaw brings unwelcome news about its scope: As well as the older Broadwell and Haswell parts, the reboot issue has been confirmed on parts up to Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake - the latter being only one generation behind Coffee Lake, Intel's latest microarchitecture.

"We have reproduced these issues internally and are making progress toward identifying the root cause". It intends to ship a beta microcode to system builders next week. In a confidential document, it told select partners to "delay additional deployments of these microcode updates", despite telling the wider public to continue.

The company's Data Centre boss said it has now issued updates to 90% of Intel CPUs that have been purchased in the last five years, but it's now working on fixing the problems the update has caused.

Shenoy also detailed some of the impact the patches are expected to have on CPU performance, something Intel initially downplayed. The tests on its data centre systems do show a significant impact that changes according to the specific workloads and configurations a client has set up.

He added: "Impacts ranging from 0-2 percent on industry-standard measures of integer and floating point throughput, Linpack, STREAM, server-side Java and energy efficiency benchmarks". While some tests such as simulating stock exchange interaction and online transaction showed a slowdown of around 4 per cent, other tests with severe workloads showed a slowdown as high as 25 per cent. Intel's report on performance slow down comes after Microsoft came clean earlier this month that fixes for Spectre would slow down Windows PC. "For example, there are other mitigations options that could yield less impact".

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