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Intel won’t be patching the Spectre V2 flaw in its older chips any time soon

INTEL MIGHT NOT BE ABLE to fix the second version of the Spectre flaw that affects more than 230 models of its processors, due to how difficult it is to remove the vulnerability.

In new microcode revision guidance released by the chipmaker, Intel added a “stopped” status to its microcode updates relating to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, which would suggest that it will have no patch to fully remove the vulnerabilities which blight a whole clutch of its processors.

The microcode revisions to fix the Spectre Varian 2 flaw in chips from the Bloomfield Xeon, Clarksfield, Gulftown, and Yorkfield families of chips to name a few, are marked as stopped due to several reasons.

“After a comprehensive investigation of the microarchitectures and microcode capabilities for these products, Intel has determined to not release microcode updates for these products for one or more reasons including, but not limited to the following: Micro-architectural characteristics that preclude a practical implementation of features mitigating Variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715); Limited Commercially Available System Software support; based on customer inputs, most of these products are implemented as “closed systems” and therefore are expected to have a lower likelihood of exposure to these vulnerabilities,” explained Intel.

However, there are microcodes updates that do protect against the first variation of Spectre and the more serious Meltdown flaw. And it’s also worth noting that the chips with the stopped updates are fairly old in processors years, with the most recent going on sale in 2011.

“We’ve now completed release of microcode updates for Intel microprocessor products launched in the last 9+ years that required protection against the side-channel vulnerabilities discovered by Google Project Zero,” Intel said in a statement sent to us. “However, as indicated in our latest microcode revision guidance, we will not be providing updated microcode for a select number of older platforms for several reasons, including limited ecosystem support and customer feedback.”

More recent chips have patches in place or in production which should help keep them safe from the processor flaws. However, the whole situation is a good indication of just how deep the Meltdown and Spectre flaws run, though there’s yet to be any reports of them being exploited out in the wild.

Intel’s latest Coffee Lake processors, now in laptop form, are said to be immune to the flaws, so they’re the chips worth keeping an eye out for. µ

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