Skip to main content

More Spectre protection comes with some of Intel’s new 9th-gen CPUs, but not all

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Intel’s newly announced 9-series CPUs bring a lot of exciting new features to the table, including higher clock speeds and the promise of greater gaming performance. But arguably one of the most important factors is in security. These chips are the first generation of new desktop CPUs to come with hardware fixes for the Spectre and Meltdown bugs which emerged in recent years.

In particular, it’s the new K-series of gaming CPUs that are receiving the fix. Those chips come with changes at the hardware level and should be far more secure against the kind of attacks that Spectre and its ilk have brought to light in recent years. Although they are still based on the same 14nm node that has dominated Intel’s chip designs since 2014, these would be the first ones to come with a fix for these sorts of bugs at the hardware level.

The second set of new 9th-gen chips, the X-series (and Xeon-class chips), don’t have those same security fixes. Because they’re based on the older Skylake-X architecture, Intel is relying solely on software updates to keep them protected against these possible vulnerabilities.

News of the fixes were shared at Intel’s recent desktop press event, where it stated that, “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.”

The hardware alterations made to the chips protect against Meltdown V3, otherwise known as the rogue data cache load bug. The L1 terminal fault exploit was also shored up with hardware changes. Software and microcode changes protect those same chips against the Spectre V2 branch target injection bug, the Meltdown V3, a rogue system register read, and the variant V4 speculative store bypass flaw.

In the laptop world, Intel has had a similar approach toward making hardware-level fixes. Some, but not all, have implemented hardware protections. Intel has been criticized in the past for the way it has handled these potentially critical flaws and has had a relatively slow move toward patching the vulnerabilities on a hardware level throughout 2018.

Editors' Recommendations

Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
AMD’s new CPUs decisively end the high-performance battle with Intel
A person holding the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X.

AMD is putting its foot down. In what Donny Woligroski, senior processor technical marketing manager at AMD, called the "worst-kept secret" in the world of desktop processors, Team Red announced it's bringing its wildly popular Threadripper chips back to high-end desktops. They're destined to be some of the best processors money can buy, and Intel currently has no way to compete.

If you're not up to speed, AMD quietly and unceremoniously ended its Threadripper series for desktops a little over a year ago. When the company announced its previous generation of Threadripper CPUs, it revealed it would stick with the Enterprise-grade Pro series chips going forward. A little over 12 months after that announcement, AMD is reversing course.

Read more
Intel Meteor Lake is coming to desktop, but there’s a big catch
Intel announcing the Meteor Lake release date on Intel Innovation.

It's been a real roller coaster ride with Intel Meteor Lake. First, it was coming to desktops, then it wasn't, then it was, and now ... it isn't, but it is. If you're as confused as we are, don't worry -- Intel has set things straight and we now know that Meteor Lake chips will be available in desktops, but they won't become some of the best processors for desktop PCs, all because they're not socketed.

Intel spoke about the future of its 14th-Gen Meteor Lake chips in a statement made to ComputerBase, revealing that, yes, Intel Meteor Lake will come to desktop PCs, but only all-in-one (AIO) computers like the Intel NUC or small form-factor PCs. It won't be available in socketed form, which means that you won't be able to install it in a future LGA1851 motherboard. In short, Meteor Lake chips are laptop CPUs, through and through.

Read more
Intel’s Core Ultra CPUs are more Apple, less AMD
Intel announcing the Meteor Lake release date on Intel Innovation.

Intel’s new 14th-gen Meteor Lake CPUs are finally here. The company officially announced its latest generation client system on a chip (SoC) lineup, which is claimed to deliver "game-changing performance" and power efficiency for the PC industry. Intel says it's the "largest client SoC architectural shift in 40 years," and it seems specifically targeted at Apple's wildly popular M-series processors.

The new Meteor Lake series introduces a major architectural shift as it is the first to be built on Intel 4 process technology. It makes use of the 7nm process and is designed using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to improve yield and area scaling to increase power efficiency.

Read more