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Thursday, 22 February 2018 06:06

Intel releases new patches for Meltdown and Spectre flaws

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Processor giant Intel has issued a second set of patches for two flaws, named Meltdown and Spectre which were publicly disclosed in January, after there were problems with the first set of patches issued last month.

The new patches are for 6th, 7th and 8th generation Intel processors and the latest Intel Core X-series processor family, according to a blog post by Navin Shenoy, executive vice-president and general manager of the company's Data Centre Group.

Last month, Shenoy asked OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users to hold off from applying the first patches because they could cause reboots and other unpredictable behaviour.

Those patches caused crashes when applied to systems which had Broadwell and Haswell processors.

The two flaws were revealed in the first week of January and are in Intel processors made since 1995. Since then, companies have been hustling to offer fixes and workarounds.

Meltdown removes the barrier between user applications and sensitive parts of the operating system. Spectre, which is also reportedly found in some AMD and ARM processors, can trick vulnerable applications into leaking the contents of their memory.

In the post accompanying the announcement of the second set of patches, Shenoy said: "The new microcode will be made available in most cases through OEM firmware updates... There is also a comprehensive schedule and current status for planned microcode updates available online.

"We are mindful of the fact that, in some cases, there are multiple mitigation techniques available that may provide protection against these exploits. This includes 'Retpoline', a Google-developed mitigation technique for Variant 2 (of the Spectre flaw).

"For those interested in more information on Retpoline and how it works, we recently published a new white paper. Google has also posted information about Retpoline."

As iTWire reported recently, Intel faces a total of 33 lawsuits over the two flaws. Additionally, the Boston law firm of Block & Leviton is preparing a class action lawsuit against Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich for allegedly selling a vast majority of his Intel stock after the company was notified of the two security flaws.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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