Intel redesigns processors to eliminate massive flaws


Intel eighth-gen
Is Apple working on new Mac chips in Washington County?
Photo: Intel

Intel has redesigned its processors to help eliminate the Meltdown and Spectre flaws once and for all.

Its eighth-generation Core and Xeon chips use protection through partitioning, along with the latest software patches, to kill all three variants of the bug. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich warns, however, that “there is still work to do” to ensure users stay protected.

Almost every processor manufactured in the last decade — including those inside your Mac and iOS devices — was left exposed by the Meltdown and Spectre flaws. Security vulnerabilities don’t get much bigger than that.

Intel and other chip-makers scrambled to issue fixes, and Intel says that “100 percent” of its chips launched in the last five years are now safe. Krzanich urges users to install any available updates to ensure they are protected.

Intel’s new chips have partition protection

You’ll need the latest updates with Intel’s eighth-generation chips, too; they’re required to protect against Variant 1 of the flaws. But thanks to hardware changes, they’re even more secure.

“While Variant 1 will continue to be addressed via software mitigations, we are making changes to our hardware design to further address the other two,” Krzanich explains.

“We have redesigned parts of the processor to introduce new levels of protection through partitioning that will protect against both Variants 2 and 3.“Think of this partitioning as additional ‘protective walls’ between applications and user privilege levels to create an obstacle for bad actors.”

Coming in late 2018

Intel’s eight-generation Core and Xeon processors will begin shipping in the second half of 2018. They probably won’t end up in Apple devices until 2019 at the earliest, since Apple has become a little slow at adopting Intel’s latest hardware — but they’ll get there eventually.

This isn’t the end of processor security concerns, though. “The security landscape is constantly evolving and we know that there will always be new threats,” Krzanich warns — but Intel is focused, “now, more than ever,” on keeping us safe.

Krzanich is promising urgency, transparency, and ongoing security assurance.


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