Intel’s processors might be slowing down due to a security flaw being fixed. The security flaw makes personal details and easy target for hackers but the fix will slow down by as much as 30 per cent, potentially having a huge impact around the world. “This is the worst bug I’ve seen for a long time,” says Kevin Curran, a professor of cyber security at Ulster University.
This security flaw centres on a kernel, an important part of an operating system that controls most other programs. The kernel gives those other programs access to memory all while protecting sensitive data from your operating system. This flaw means that any program has the capability to bypass the kernel and can manipulate sensitive information, i.e, easily hackable.
“Additionally, if a program is running in the cloud it could get access to anything else running on that server,” says Curran. This is a big problem, since most of the world’s cloud computing runs on Intel processors. This means that Amazon, Google, and Microsoft data centres aren’t as secure as you think.
The fix will mean removing the fast switching that happens between a program and a kernel and replacing a process that’s more secure, but slower. And depending on the situation, it could be 5 to 30 per cent slower. And this type of bug is unimaginable. “Never have I seen a patch that causes the CPU to be slowed down on such a scale,” says Curran.
Not much has been revealed to the public but this kind of bug could be dangerous. “Processors have long been sold based solely on performance considerations, not security,” says Robert Watson, a University Senior Lecturer in Systems, Security, and Architecture at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.
Intel released a statement to the public saying that these “exploits are caused by a ‘bug’ or a ‘flaw’ and are unique to Intel products are incorrect”. “Intel believes these exploits do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data,” the statement said. The company also said that they are providing firmware and software updates and plans to reveal to the public when these updates are available.
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