Ars Technica on Intel releasing microcode updates to combat the historic Spectre vulnerability:
After recommending customers not use its microcode fix for Broadwell and Haswell chips, Intel has issued a new microcode update for Skylake processors that gives operating systems the ability to protect against the Spectre flaw revealed earlier this year.
The Spectre attacks work by persuading a processor’s branch predictor to make a specific bad prediction. This bad prediction can then be used to infer the value of data stored in memory, which, in turn, gives an attacker information that they shouldn’t otherwise have. The microcode update is designed to give operating systems greater control over the branch predictor, enabling them to prevent one process from influencing the predictions made in another process.
Intel’s first microcode update, developed late last year, was included in system firmware updates for machines with Broadwell, Haswell, Skylake, Kaby Lake, and Coffee Lake processors. But users subsequently discovered that the update was causing systems to crash and reboot. Initially, only Broadwell and Haswell systems were confirmed to be affected, but further examination determined that Skylake, Kaby Lake, and Coffee Lake systems were rebooting, too.
In response, consumers were advised not to use the new microcode, and operating system features that leveraged the new capabilities were disabled.
Although this update addresses the Spectre issue, the actual fix is going to take years. An architecture update is required to fully solve this, and the Meltdown, issues.
This makes me wonder how many other unknown vulnerabilities remain in Intel chips that, say, national intelligence agencies are aware of but Intel is still in the dark.