Meltdown and Spectre patches could cause slowdowns, warns Intel

12 Jan 2018

Intel logo. Image: Alexander Tolstykh/Shutterstock

Intel says machines using older processors such as Broadwell and Haswell will be most affected by patches.

The aftermath of the publicising of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities has seen many reports of slower machines as protective patch updates are installed.

Earlier in the week, Microsoft had to pause updates for devices with AMD chips following customer complaints of machines freezing when starting up.

Slowdown reports

Now, Intel has announced that recently issued patches for the flaws could see machines using its Broadwell and Haswell processors rebooting more often. The company said that updates may need to be issued in order to solve the problem.

Navin Shenoy, general manager of Intel’s data centre group, said the company had received information about the issue from customers and was discussing the problem directly with data centre customers.

Shenoy said: “We are working quickly with these customers to understand, diagnose and address this reboot issue.

“If this requires a revised firmware update from Intel, we will distribute that update through the normal channels.”

Three firmware issues have been flagged by the company in updates released over the past week, according to a confidential document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Intel also said that users may not notice a slowdown in their personal computers depending on how they use their machines day to day.

Browsing the web and using applications will see some performance reduction, and usage of heavy applications will see that increase again, explained Intel. “In certain cases, some users may see a more noticeable impact. For instance, users who use web applications that involve complex JavaScript operations may see a somewhat higher impact (up to 10pc based on our initial measurements).”

Shenoy assured customers that Intel had yet to see any evidence that the Meltdown and Spectre exploits had been used to obtain personal data.

He concluded: “To be clear, we do not want to see the performance of our products impacted in any way, and we know our customers feel the same way. However, the security of our products and our customers’ data is our number-one priority.”

CEO Brian Krzanich has promised more transparency from Intel in a separate post, saying it would publicly disclose significant vulnerabilities and add funding for “academic and independent research into potential security threats”, as well as consistent progress reports for all issued and forthcoming patches.

Intel logo. Image: Alexander Tolstykh/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects