Intel calls for pause to Meltdown, Spectre patch rollout

Kelley Robertson
January 23, 2018

Intel initially believed the reboot problem was limited to firmware updated systems running its older Broadwell and Haswell CPUs.

The chip maker began investigating its patch after users reported machines were unexpectedly rebooting after installing the update.

Intel says that it has root-caused the issue on Haswell and Broadwell systems and that it has already issued a version of the fix to hardware partners, which are now testing it. Intel's official advisory to hardware partners hasn't changed: Don't issue anymore of the bugged update and start testing the new one.

"We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current [patch] versions", reads the statement, "as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior".

Intel has also faced concerns the patches will slow down chip performance, and announced last week that speeds on patched chips could take a hit of 6 percent or less.


Well, not exactly. You see, it turns out the patch that was issued by Intel has a few problems of its own.

It did not detail the bug in the code that caused the issues.

In a blog post on Monday, the company advised PC and Mac users skip the update, promising a better version is coming soon. For now, leaving processors unpatched means chips still have the Spectre and Meltdown design flaws. This would be delivered via a BIOS update that would leave in place mitigations for Variant 1, also Spectre, and Variant 3, Meltdown.

However, Intel has yet to directly address similar issues affecting both older and more recent processors than the Broadwell and Haswell families, namely Ivy Bridge, Skylake, Kaby Lake, and Coffee Lake generations. Regular computer users don't have a lot to worry about, but operations managers at cloud companies and data centers have done little else in 2018 but worry about these security issues and the performance impact of the patches created to mitigate those issues.

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