Skip to main content

Intel’s 9th-generation ‘Ice Lake’ CPUs will have fixes for Meltdown, Spectre

At the beginning of Intel’s fourth quarter 2017 earnings conference call, CEO Brian Krzanich immediately jumped into an update about patching the Meltdown and Spectre security issues found with the company’s processors. He confirmed that Intel is currently working on silicon-based changes for upcoming products that will address the problems on a hardware level. These products are expected to hit the market later in 2018. 

Krzanich also hinted at the current problems Intel faces with the first software-based patch addressing Meltdown.  

“While we made progress, I’m acutely aware that we have more to do, we’ve committed to being transparent keeping our customers and owners appraised of our progress and through our actions, building trust,” he said. “Our near-term focus is on delivering high-quality mitigations to protect our customers’ infrastructure from these exploits.” 

Speculation points to knowledge of the Meltdown and Spectre issues long before acknowledging them in public. That is because processor designs remain locked for at least a year before they become products sold on the market. Intel’s ninth-generation “Ice Lake” family of processors is expected to launch by the end of 2018 or in early 2019 based on 10nm process technology. Thus, the fixes needed to be in place prior to December 2017.  

Google’s Project Zero team went public with its Meltdown and Spectre findings at the beginning of January. But Intel already knew about the problems and admits it began distributing firmware updates to hardware partners in early December. It addressed five generations of Intel processors, only customers began reporting an unusually high number of system reboots after applying the update. As Krzanich said in his opening statement, Intel still has “more to do.” 

That said, how long Intel knew about the issues prior to the public exposure is unknown at this point. The next processor family slated to hit the market is Intel’s eighth-generation “Cannon Lake” chips in early 2018, the company’s first processors based on 10nm process technology. It’s essentially a smaller version of Intel’s seventh-generation processor design, aka Kaby Lake, so hardware-based fixes for Meltdown and Spectre likely won’t be present. 

Meltdown (CVE-2017-5754) and Spectre (CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715) are three exploits presented by Google Project Zero, Cybrus Technology, and Graz University of Technology. They take advantage of how modern processors “think ahead” while computing multiple instructions using a technique called speculative execution. Processors “predict” the outcome of their tasks based on information stored in memory, thus speeding up the overall computing process. The exploits manage to access all that unsecured data. 

The problem exists in all processors dating back to at least 2011 from Intel and AMD (x86), and those manufactured by Samsung, Qualcomm, and others based on ARM’s mobile processor architecture. Hardware companies are scrambling to patch what they can through software-based updates, and directly to the hardware in future processor releases as indicated by Intel.  

“Security has always been a priority for us and these events reinforce our continuous mission to develop the world’s most secured products,” Krzanich said. “This will be an ongoing journey.” 

Editors' Recommendations

Kevin Parrish
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then…
Intel Raptor Lake processors may have a much bigger cache
Render of Intel Alder Lake chip.

According to a new leak, Intel Raptor Lake processors may be getting a much larger cache than their current-gen Alder Lake predecessors. The increase in cache size, which is rumored to be up to 68MB, may result in a huge performance boost.

Intel hasn't said much about the upcoming processors, but that doesn't stop rumors from surfacing. Following a cryptic tweet and several more in-depth responses, we now know more about the rumored Intel Raptor Lake upgrade.

Read more
Intel says its Alder Lake gaming CPU issues have been fixed
Intel Alder Lake pin layout.

The DRM-based issues that caused certain video games to crash or fail to load on a system with an Alder Lake processor have now been fixed by Intel.

The company confirmed it resolved the DRM problems for affected games running on 12th-gen Intel Core CPUs for both Windows 11 and Windows 10.

Read more
Intel Core i9-12900KS could push Alder Lake CPUs to new levels
Intel unveils the 12th Gen Intel Core processor

Intel is reportedly working on a new processor, the Intel Core i9-12900KS, which could become the highest-performing 12th-generation Alder Lake CPU.

According to VideoCardz’s sources, the Intel Core i9-12900KS is currently being tested by the company’s board partners. The processor is said to be a pre-binned model featuring an all-core boost of 5.2 GHz (specifically for the performance core), which would represent an increase of 200 MHz over the standard 12900K.

Read more