Intel now knows why Spectre and Metldown patches are causing reboots

That's the latest directive from Intel, who cited spontaneous reboot and system instability problems - first reported January 11 - following its latest firmware patch aimed to defend against the Spectre and Meltdown exploit vulnerabilities.

"We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors, and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior", Intel's Data Center Group EVP and General Manager, Navin Shenoy, wrote in a blog post. However, he recognized that these patches have caused "frequent reboots" on updated computers. Recent statements from Intel and Microsoft confirm that some patches may cause a reduction in system performance, as patching the vulnerabilities means fiddling with processes that are created to speed up CPU performance. "Please be assured we are working quickly to address these issues". At least for Windows users, patches such as the one Intel issued typically come through the Windows Update feature, not from Intel itself.

The company has found the root cause of the problem - at least for some of its chips - and is working on a new patch.

In addition to the firmware update releases by chip vendors, operating system vendors have released updates for the Meltdown and Spectre attack methods. However, until then, Intel is changing their tune in terms of updating.

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The Intel chief executive promised speedy release of patches during his most high-profile public comments since the release of research highlighting vulnerabilities affecting the chips powering most modern PCs and many mobile devices. To learn what updates you might need, see CNET's list of Spectre and Meltdown updates.

"We continue to urge all customers to vigilantly maintain security best practice and for consumers to keep systems up-to-date", Shenoy said.

There are still several Intel chip models that are reportedly experiencing rebooting issues, including its second-generation Sandy Bridge, third-generation Ivy Bridge, sixth-generation Skylake, and seventh-generation Kaby Lake models. However, it appears to be problematic for those on Broadwell or Haswell.

  • Toni Ryan