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.

TechCrunch reports:

Intel notified some of its customers of the security flaws in its processors, dubbed Spectre and Meltdown, but left out the U.S. government as part of that. Some of the companies Intel notified included Chinese technology companies, though the report suggests there is no evidence that any information was misused. An Intel spokesperson said that the company wasn’t able to tell everyone it planned because the news was made public earlier than expected.

So the real questions are: did China inform Russia of these vulnerabilities, and has Russia created tools to leverage these exploits? Why would Intel hide this information from the United States government?

This goes back to something I am adamantly against: withholding news of vulnerabilities of this nature so the intelligence communities can stockpile and leverage internally developed exploit kits to their so-called advantage.