SAN FRANCISCO — Intel responded to reports that a design flaw in Intel processors makes computers using them susceptible to a newly discovered hack, saying the issue is not specific to Intel chips and that it is working closely with other tech companies to develop an industry-wide fix for the issue.
The issue, reported by the online tech publication the Register on Tuesday (Jan. 2), is described as a software analysis method that can enable the improper gathering of sensitive data from computers. The Register reported that the bug is present in Intel x86 processors produced in the last decade and that it allows normal user programs to discern to some extent the layout or contents of protected kernel memory areas.
But, in a statement issued Wednesday, Intel disputed the notion that the bug was specific to Intel chips. "Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits," Intel said.
Intel said it is working closely with other tech companies, including AMD, ARM and several operating system vendors "to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively." Intel also said it has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate the potential impact of the software analysis techniques.
According to the story in the Register, this fixes can slow down the performance of older Intel processors by 5 percent to 30 percent. However, Intel refuted that, saying "any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time."
Intel also said it and other companies had planned to disclose this issue next week, when more software and firmware updates will be available to correct the issue. The Register reported that Microsoft is expected to make available a patch for its Windows operating system next week. The changes were given to beta testers in November and December, the Register reported.
— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.