Intel white paper addresses Meltdown, Spectre security flaws

January 12, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
Intel has posted updates on its response to Meltdown and Spectre, the methods of extracting otherwise secure data from computers systems, including a white paper and preliminary benchmark results.

Intel said that the countermeasures being introduced could degrade performance of an 8th generation Core processor by up to 14 percent in sub-tasks within a specific benchmark. The company also said that it has not received any information that Meltdown and Spectre have been used to obtain customer data in the real world.

Intel was informed of the so-called Meltdown and Spectre attack exploits in summer 2017 by the Google Zero Project but nothing was heard publicly until the story broke in January 2018. Intel said it had began distributing firmware updates to OEM partners in December 2017. "For Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years, we expect to issue updates for more than 90 percent of them within a week, and the remainder by the end of January," the company said in a statement.

Intel said that business and home uses should not see significant slowdowns in common tasks such as reading email, writing a document or accessing digital photos. The SYSmark 2014 SE benchmark tests show 8th generation Core platforms with solid-state storage will see a performance impact of 6 percent or less. The individual tests within Sysmark ranged from 2 percent to 14 percent, Intel said.

Intel said the overall impact depends on workload, computer configuration and mitigation techniques implemented for which in some cases there are multiple options. The white paper provides details on these options, Intel said.

Speculative execution side-channel white paper

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