Oracle issues patches for Spectre and Meltdown

Allan Goodman
January 19, 2018

Remember the Meltdown and Spectre flaws that affect all computers and mobile phones out there?

The rebooting problem was initially believed to be limited to Intel's older chips but the company has now confirmed that it has been able to reproduce similar behavior on Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake-based machines as well.

"Generally speaking, the workloads that incorporate a larger number of user/kernel privilege changes and spend a significant amount of time in privileged mode will be more adversely impacted", Intel's data centre group head Navin Shenoy said. "We have now issued firmware updates for 90 percent of Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years", Shenoy says.

McNerney, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked the companies to explain the scope of Spectre and Meltdown, their timeframe for understanding the vulnerabilities, how consumers are affected and whether the flaws have been exploited, among other questions. The company promises to continue pushing out beta microcode updates to its customers as it works toward finding and resolving the core issue. Hopefully a streamlined fix without these issues will emerge pretty soon after vendor testing is done next week, although Intel doesn't recommend that folks wait before patching, given the seriousness of these bugs.

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On Tuesday, as part of its quarterly patch update, Oracle released fixes for 237 flaws across its products, including its first batch of Spectre and Meltdown fixes. As Intel admitted last week, some folks on Haswell and Broadwell CPUs are seeing spontaneous system restarts because of the updates.

Intel has already said that it believes that there are other options that will mitigate the performance drop, most notably Google's Retpoline patch, which is said to have an nearly zero impact.

Intel also shared initial performance results for its server platforms running two-socket Intel Xeon Scalable systems (code-named Skylake).

Intel is now investigating these issues and working on fixes for the same. "For example, there are other mitigations options that could yield less impact", Shenoy says, pointing to an Intel white paper for more information.

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