- Microsoft has started to push out a fix for a widely-reported security vulnerability in Intel, AMD, and ARM processors, reports The Verge.
- The fix started to go out to Windows 10 users Wednesday. Microsoft will release patches for Windows 7 and Windows 8 on Tuesday.
- The patches will cause some PCs to take a hit to their performance.
- Windows PCs with Intel’s “Skylake” processor family will be the least affected, but older PCs could reportedly see a noticeable drop in their performance.
The processor security flaw that has the tech world abuzz is already being fixed for Windows computers – but the fix doesn’t completely solve the problem, and right now it’s only available for those running the latest version of the operating system.
The security flaw affects Intel, AMD, and ARM processors. It’s been widely reported that fixing it could require most PCs to take a sizable performance hit.
Microsoft started to push out a patch for the vulnerability for Windows 10 computers on Wednesday afternoon. It plans to release fixes for Windows 7 and Windows 8 on Tuesday, according to The Verge.
But those patches for Windows are only half the battle. Processor manufacturers will have to release their own updates to completely plug the security flaw. For its part, Intel expects to start releasing its patches next week, company CEO Brian Krzanich said on CNBC Wednesday afternoon.
The fixes for the vulnerability will have different effects on PCs, depending on the vintage of their processors. PCs with processors based on Intel’s two-and-a-half-year-old Skylake architecture or newer won’t see a “significant” performance reduction, The Verge reported, citing sources familiar with Microsoft’s thinking. But PCs with older processors could see a noticeable slowdown in their processor speeds.
The apparent reason for the slowdown is the security vulnerability is related to “speculative execution,” a key method in how the “kernel,” or core, of Windows and other operating systems interact with processors. “Speculative execution” has been a cornerstone of Intel processor architecture since 1995, affecting hundreds of millions of chips.
Under the right circumstances, Intel says, a bad actor could exploit the flaw and get access to otherwise protected and secure data. Fixing the problem requires using some computing power to virtually isolate aspects of the kernel from the processor. Diverting some of the processor’s computing power in that way means it’s not available to the operating system.
Intel says that the actual performance hit by the fixes will be “workload dependent,” meaning it will vary depending on the type of apps you’re running on your computer.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.