Intel CPUs have a huge flaw and the patch could have drastic performance issues.
Intel. Even technophobes will recognise the name as their product currently (as of Q1 2018) makes up 81% of market share. It’s been a friend to offices and homes, consumers and professionals for decades. Even their iconic jingle from their Intel Inside adverts which have been running since 1994 is common enough to be recognised.
Today is a worrying day for Intel with the news that their processor range covering Intel processors made over the past decade have a security flaw. With the number of architectures the company have made in the last decade and their dominance in the market, this is a huge deal. Currently, the exact details of the security flaw are being kept embargo due to Intel needing time to fix the bug, but the only information out on the market currently is that it is to do with the potential of normal user programs being able to access the protected kernel areas of the PC.
Wait, what is a Kernel?
It’s basically the program at the core of the operating system (such as Windows, MacOS & Linux). Its job is to connect software to the hardware, such as the Memory, Hard Drive, Monitor and yes… the Processor.
This can be a huge issue, if someone manages to develop malicious software that can take advantage of this bug, it can lead to devastating effects on the PC market due to the 81% dominance of Intel’s CPUs.
There is some good news and bad news on that though… the main targets of these attacks would be computers running in a virtualised environment. So your ThinkPad or iMac you use to get some work done or browse the web isn’t the main target.
What is a virtualised environment?
It’s not a digital botanical garden. It’s actually your computer running another operating system within itself. Imagine opening up Windows 10, then clicking an icon, and Windows 7 begins to boot in a program screen, while you are still in Windows 10.
Why is this bad?
This is common to see in Server PC’s, and with Amazon and Microsoft having a huge majority on the server industry with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. They need to make sure they are patched due to the HUGE amount of secure data they hold. So the information that they hold, which can even include yours depending on the third party products you actually utilise.
NetFlix, Unilever, Met Office, Adobe, AirBnb, Spotify, ITV, JustGiving, Samsung, SoundCloud, UK Ministry of Justice, Harvard Medical School and much more use Amazon Web Services in their work.
What about AMD?
If you don’t know, AMD is the main competitor to Intel. They don’t take up as much market space, but with the year AMD had, this is the last thing Intel needed.
In 2017, AMD’s Ryzen lineup came out strong with the ability to overclock (make them run faster) as standard. Their new EPYC server CPU’s which their old Opteron brand has been causing havoc on Intel’s Xeon range.
AMD are safe from the “meltdown” cyber event, but a bigger one is being announced currently known as “Spectre” which AMD doesn’t seem to be getting too much damage from, but as these announcements are still being made and understood. Keep an eye out for future information.
The Linux update is already on the market and is showing large drops on servers up to 30%, but everyday PC’s and Laptops running the Linux operating system seem to be staying roughly the same. With only 1-2% slowdowns.
We will find out more as Windows releases its patch in the coming days, but with the news that Linux servers are having a large drop in performance, it doesn’t look good as 66.9% of servers are running Unix/Linux operating systems and the 33.1% are running Windows.
With Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure being affected by this, it’ll be interesting to see if the drop will actually be dramatic for end users, or just internal company workflow. One thing is for sure is that Intel’s stock is dropping as of the 4th January 2018. With eyes on Brian Krzanich who was made aware of the vulnerability and sold his stock before the announcement to the public.
Make sure to update your operating systems over the coming days with the new Intel patch being developed for Servers and consumers.
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