Intel Scrambles and Fumbles to Issue Patch for Chip Flaws

Intel has reportedly advised computer makers and cloud service providers to refrain from using Intel firmware updates after concerns of reboot loops.

The Wall Street Journal has revealed that Intel has been “quietly advising” certain customers to hold off installing patches to fix vulnerabilities from exploits, commonly known as Meltdown and Spectre, affecting nearly every computer manufactured in the last 15 years. The report cites a confidential document by Intel that specifies three issues in updates released as fixes for the processor’s firmware.

Specifically, Intel advised customers to “delay additional deployments of these microcode updates”.

According to Intel’s data-center group general manager Steve Smith, the document is specifically being shared with computer makers and large cloud computing providers after reports that the updates caused computers to dwell in a reboot loop. The bugs, which are “unrelated to security” according to the executive, affects a number of Intel’s older server and PC chips including Haswell chips dating back to 2013 and Broadwell processors released in 2015.

In a security update posted by Intel after the WSJ article, its executive vice president Navin Shenoy admitted to the boot-loop concerns in the interests of transparency.

The Intel executive wrote:

 We are working quickly with these customers to understand, diagnose and address this reboot issue. If this requires a revised firmware update from Intel, we will distribute that update through the normal channels.

Further, he stressed end-users ought to continue applying updates that are recommended by their hardware and software manufacturers, rather than using Intel’s patch.

The world’s largest chipmaker admitted to the security issues first revealed by Google Project Zero, pointing to vulnerabilities that allow hackers to steal sensitive information from computers, smartphones and other devices using Intel’s microprocessors.

Intel shares are down 4.5% since reports of the flaws emerged soon after the turn into 2018.

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