Intel plans to release chips that have built-in Meltdown and Spectre protections later this year

Getty/David BeckerIntel CEO Brian Krzanich said Wednesday the company is ‘working around the clock’ to address the Spectre and Meltdown attacks.
  • Intel plans to release chips that have built-in protections against the Spectre and Meltdown attacks later this year, company CEO Brian Krzanich said Wednesday.
  • Krzanich made the announcement on a conference call focused on Intel’s latest quarterly earnings report.
  • He didn’t immediately comment on the controversy surrounding his massive stock sale last fall.

Intel expects to begin shipping its first chips with built-in protection against the Meltdown and Spectre attacks later this year, company CEO Brian Krzanich said Wednesday.

The company has “assigned some of our very best minds” to work on addressing the vulnerability that’s exploited by those attacks, Krzanich said on a conference call following Intel’s quarterly earnings announcement. That will result in “silicon-based” changes to the company’s future chips, he said.

“We’ve been working around clock” to address the vulnerability and attacks, Krzanich said. But, he added, “we’re acutely aware we have more to do.”

The Spectre and Meltdown attacks exploit a feature called speculative execution that’s present in nearly all the chips Intel has made over the last 20 years. The Spectre attack also affects chips from AMD and those based on ARM designs and, in turn, nearly every PC, smartphone and tablet made in recent years. The attacks, which were made public earlier this month, could allow malicious actors to get access to secret data stored on computers, including passwords.

Regaining trust after setbacks and missteps

So far, the fixes for the chip vulnerability have come in the form of software updates provided by Intel, Microsoft and others. Those software patches can cause a PC’s performance to slow down in certain circumstances however.

And earlier this week, Intel was forced to tell customers to delay installing its software patch after discovering that it caused certain PCs to unexpectedly reboot. The embarrassing situation was worsened after Linux creator Linus Torvalds publicly blasted Intel’s patches as “garbage.”

Security has always been a priority for Intel, Krzanich said. But, he added, it’s “an ongoing journey.”

“We’re committed to the task,” he said. “I’m confident we’re up for the challenge.”

Krzanich did not immediately address the controversy over his massive stock sale in November. He gained $US24 million by selling off all the shares and stock options he was allowed to divest.

He made that sale months after the company was informed of the Spectre and Meltdown attacks but before they had been publicly announced. Intel has said that his sale was “unrelated” to knowledge of the security vulnerabilities.

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