Intel Is Redesigning Its Processors To Improve Security


Intel is launching new CPUs with a redesigned architecture to protect against the Spectre flaw later this year.

Meltdown, Spectre and the Intel ME flaws found a year ago could indicate a new trend where more and more security researchers are looking for flaws in low-level firmware.

Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich today described the new security measures as "protective walls" or partitioning to prevent information leakage caused by the flaws.

Intel processors featuring these hardware-level protections will start shipping out in the second half of 2018.

Intel says the company is developing a new partition system that will help protect against these vulnerabilities.

In January, Krzanich discussed "silicon-based changes" to future Intel chips, but did not elaborate. The company also revealed its plan for updated chip designs that will address both the security and performance concerns surrounding the vulnerabilities. His news confirms that Intel will be introducing hardware fixes for Meltdown and Spectre.

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The company is offering up to $250,000 for bugs similar to the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws which were discovered by Google's Project Zero in June of previous year.

Spectre variant 1 (bounds check bypass) will be continue to be mitigated against through software fixes, Krzanich said. While he didn't talk about the performance impact of the redesign but said that they will bring the performance improvements that are expected of the upcoming Coffee Lake Chips.

Intel said last week that it had begun sending patches for its Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge chips to its PC hardware partners, leaving just a few niche chips to be patched. "Our goal is to offer not only the best performance, but also the best secure performance", said the Intel exec.

"But again, our work is not done", Krzanich added. Then, in February, Intel was hit with over 30 class-action lawsuits relating to the Spectre and Meltdown chipset vulnerability. This is not a singular event; it is a long-term commitment.

Of course, choosing to use your computer without an antivirus tool installed is something of a risk, but it's one you're free to take - but as the update situation shows, there can be unwanted side-effects. This is our pledge and it's what you can count on from me, and from all of Intel.