Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Security Management

09:35 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

Intel's 9th Gen Processors Offer Protections Against Spectre & Meltdown

While talking up its 9th Gen processors this week, Intel offer some subtle hints about plans to protect its CPUs against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities that have plague x86 processors.

When the Spectre and Meltdown class of vulnerabilities in x86 processors became widely known in March of 2018, the then-CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, told the world that its upcoming CPUs would have hardware partitioning enabled for protection.

At this week's Fall Desktop Event, Intel announced just what it was that the company was going to do.

One of the processors Intel talked about was the new Core i9-9900K that offers eight cores and 16 threads. It is clocked at base frequency of 3.6GHz, which can be boosted up to 5GHz.

Intel additionally announced the 9th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 models. The i7-9700K has eight cores and eight threads, and base 3.6GHz clock speed, which can be boosted to 4.9GHz, while the i5-9600K has six cores and six threads at a base 3.7GHz speed -- which can be boosted up to 4.6GHz.

All are based on Intel's existing 14nm process, which has been in use since the Broadwell chips of 2014. All these processors are expected to be released in November.

However, with Intel delaying the truly next-gen 10nm Cannon Lake chips until 2019, this is the hardware approach that will be used until those chips emerge.

Buried in all these announcements and speed calculations, Intel offered some guidance on one section on one slide about what the company will do to minimize the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities as far as CPU hardware solutions go.

That one slide, according to Bleeping Computer, notes:

The new desktop processors include protections for the security vulnerabilities commonly referred to as "Spectre," "Meltdown" and "L1TF." These protections include a combination of the hardware design changes we announced earlier this year as well as software and microcode updates.

Other security points include:

  • Speculative side channel variant Spectre V2 (Branch Target Injection) = Microcode + Software
  • Speculative side channel variant Meltdown V3 (Rogue Data Cache Load) = Hardware
  • Speculative side channel variant Meltdown V3a (Rogue System Register Read) = Microcode
  • Speculative side channel variant V4 (Speculative Store Bypass) = Microcode + Software
  • Speculative side channel variant L1 Terminal Fault = Hardware

It seems that Intel has designed hardware protection for the L1 Terminal Fault and Meltdown V3 -- but not the V3a variation.

This splitting of hardware and software (in microcode) fixes did not impress some users on a forum.

"They're still having to use software. Software = slowdown. Not a 100% hardware fix. I bet there is zero change in the massive performance hit NVMe and Optane take," one observer wrote in a forum. "The thing is there will now be no way to test a before/after as the new BIOSs are required just to run the new CPUs."

"It would take clocking a 9600K exactly like an 8700K with an unfixed BIOS and comparing…," the post added.

The specifics of what exactly is being done in the chips that were announced has not yet been released by Intel. Until it is, users fear that any Intel solution in microcode will also cause a significant performance hit.

Only when the chips have been released to the public will comparison testing be possible.

Related posts:

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/9/2020
Omdia Research Launches Page on Dark Reading
Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading 7/9/2020
Mobile App Fraud Jumped in Q1 as Attackers Pivot from Browsers
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  7/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Django Two-Factor Authentication before 1.12, stores the user's password in clear text in the user session (base64-encoded). The password is stored in the session when the user submits their username and password, and is removed once they complete authentication by entering a two-factor authenticati...
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
In Bareos Director less than or equal to 16.2.10, 17.2.9, 18.2.8, and 19.2.7, a heap overflow allows a malicious client to corrupt the director's memory via oversized digest strings sent during initialization of a verify job. Disabling verify jobs mitigates the problem. This issue is also patched in...
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Bareos before version 19.2.8 and earlier allows a malicious client to communicate with the director without knowledge of the shared secret if the director allows client initiated connection and connects to the client itself. The malicious client can replay the Bareos director's cram-md5 challenge to...
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
osquery before version 4.4.0 enables a priviledge escalation vulnerability. If a Window system is configured with a PATH that contains a user-writable directory then a local user may write a zlib1.dll DLL, which osquery will attempt to load. Since osquery runs with elevated privileges this enables l...
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
An exploitable SQL injection vulnerability exists in the Admin Reports functionality of Glacies IceHRM v26.6.0.OS (Commit bb274de1751ffb9d09482fd2538f9950a94c510a) . A specially crafted HTTP request can cause SQL injection. An attacker can make an authenticated HTTP request to trigger this vulnerabi...