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Intel will introduce redesigned Spectre-proof CPUs this year

CHIPMAKER Intel has revealed it’s making changes to its hardware design to ensure future processors are protected against the Meltdown and Specture vulnerabilities. 

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a blog post on Thursday that the company is redesigning parts of the processor to introduce in-silicon mitigations against both Variant 2 (Meltdown) and Spectre Variant 3.

These hardware changes, which won’t be capable of mitigating Spectre v1, will see the implementation of a new partitioning system that improves both process and privilege-level separation.

“Think of this partitioning as additional ‘protective walls’ between applications and user privilege levels to create an obstacle for bad actors,” Krzanich said. 

“As we bring these new products to market, ensuring that they deliver the performance improvements people expect from us is critical”, he added. “Our goal is to offer not only the best performance, but also the best secure performance.”

Intel’s next-generation Xeon processors (Cascade Lake) will include the new partitioning, alongside 8th-generation Intel Core processors that ship in the second half of 2018. 

While Krzanich remained tight-lipped regarding the technical details of the new hardware-based fixes yet, he was keen to announce that Intel has made firmware updates available for 100 per cent of its products launched in the last five years. 

Related: Intel ‘intentionally hid’ Meltdown and Spectre from US cybersecurity officials

This milestone comes just days after Microsoft announced that it would help to distribute Intel’s firmware updates to protect Windows 10 systems against the Spectre CPU vulnerability, with many having been waiting for an OEM fix since the flaw was first disclosed in January.

“But again, our work is not done,” Krzanich added. “This is not a singular event; it is a long-term commitment. One that we take very seriously.

“Customer-first urgency, transparent and timely communications, and ongoing security assurance. This is our pledge and it’s what you can count on from me, and from all of Intel.” µ 

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