Intel’s latest set of Spectre microcode fixes is coming to a Windows update

Intel Skylake die shot. (credit: Intel)
Windows users running the latest version of Windows 10 on recent Intel processors will soon be receiving Intel’s microcode updates to address the Spectre variant 2 attack.
Earlier this year, attacks that explo…

Intel Skylake die shot. (credit: Intel)

Windows users running the latest version of Windows 10 on recent Intel processors will soon be receiving Intel's microcode updates to address the Spectre variant 2 attack.

Earlier this year, attacks that exploit the processor's speculative execution were published with the names Meltdown and Spectre, prompting a reaction from hardware and software companies. Intel released microcode updates for its processors to provide operating systems with greater control over certain aspects of this speculative execution; however, the company's initial releases were found to cause problems.

Intel has since fixed the microcode bugs, but until this point Microsoft has said that Windows users should turn to their system vendors to actually get the new microcode.

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New Windows patch disables Intel’s bad Spectre microcode fix

Enlarge / A closeup shot of an Intel Haswell die, with a pin for size reference. (credit: Intel)
Microsoft has released a new Windows patch to disable Intel’s hardware-based mitigation for the Spectre attack due to bugs introduced by Intel’s mitigat…

Enlarge / A closeup shot of an Intel Haswell die, with a pin for size reference. (credit: Intel)

Microsoft has released a new Windows patch to disable Intel's hardware-based mitigation for the Spectre attack due to bugs introduced by Intel's mitigation.

In the wake of the Spectre and Meltdown attacks that use the speculative execution behavior of modern processors to leak sensitive information, Intel released a microcode update that offers operating systems additional controls over the processor's ability to predict branches. When paired with corresponding operating system changes, the extra controls can prevent the unwanted information disclosure.

Unfortunately, Intel discovered earlier this month that the microcode updates are causing machines to reboot. Initially this was confirmed to be the case for Haswell and Broadwell chips; Intel later confirmed that it also applied to Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Skylake and Kaby Lake parts. Intel's advice was to stop deploying the microcode. A week ago the company said that it had isolated the root cause of reboots, at least for Haswell and Broadwell processors, and that it would soon begin testing a new version.

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