Kills Intel's Faulty Spectre Fix to Protect Against Data Loss

30 January, 2018, 01:58 | Author: Harriet Bell
  • Intel told Chinese companies about chip flaw before notifying US gov: report

Intel issued a firmware fix for variant 2 of the trio of chip security vulnerabilities known as Meltdown and Spectre (see Expect More Cybersecurity "Meltdowns").

Intel learned about Spectre and Meltdown in June 2017, when a member of Google's Project Zero security team identified the flaws. The problem for some people, including Linus Torvalds, was that Intel's initial response was lackluster.

Microsoft has disabled a recent Intel fix for the Spectre CPU flaw after the update caused some systems to unexpectedly reboot. Anyway, this should roll back the Intel patch that was causing reboots if you have it impacting any important boxes. Intel's update that was meant to make your device more secure is resulting in unexpected reboots and more alarming, data loss or corruption.

Pending the arrival of those fixes, however, Microsoft's out-of-band security update, designated KB4078130, will disable Intel's fix for CVE-2017-5715.

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In a recent statement, Microsoft explained the reasoning behind the emergency Windows patch, stating that "Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption..."

The Windows-maker also assured users that as of January 25, there are no indications that the Spectre variant 2 patch has been weaponized for potential hacking attacks. There are a pair of Knowledge Base articles that walk users through this manual process here and here. You can also install it manually from the Microsoft Update Catalog, which ironically is styled like Windows XP.

Due to the severity of the flaws, Intel's decision to warn select customers in advance, leaving out the U.S. Government itself, has been met with concerns of the information being misused. If this requires a revised firmware update from Intel, we will distribute that update through the normal channels. "Over the weekend, we began rolling out an early version of the updated solution to industry partners for testing, and we will make a final release available once that testing has been completed", Navin Shenoy added.

Even though Intel has to reach out to those vendors to coordinate how patches and fixes, the Chinese government routinely monitors conversations between companies and could have theoretically exploited the vulnerabilities before patches were made available to everyone.

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