Intel warned Chinese tech firms of security flaws before telling U.S. government

top tech stories intel

Intel warned certain customers, including Chinese tech firms, of the Spectre and Meltdown security flaws before notifying the United States government, the Wall Street Journal reportedThe flaws were first discovered by Google’s Project Zero team in June 2017. Intel held off on disclosing the issue while it worked on possible fixes. The company planned to make the announcement on January 9, but The Register broke the story on January 2. Intel then confirmed the news the next day.

Intel did notify several major tech firms in an effort to limit the potential damage and help work on fixes. A representative from the Department of Homeland Security said that the department did not learn of the flaws until the news was broken, however. Homeland Security is often notified of such issues before the public, and often acts as a source of guidance for how to address them.

In response to questions from Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Intel has since revealed the reason it didn’t disclose the flaws to government agencies and officials. It claimed that since there was “no indication that any of these vulnerabilities had been exploited by malicious actors,” it didn’t see the need, according to Reuters. It also revealed that it didn’t think the flaw would be capable of harming critical infrastructure because it didn’t believe it could affect industrial control systems.

Alphabet, a department of which discovered the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, had extended its typical 90-day grace period before revealing the bug to the public twice, to January 3 and then January 9.

The NSA was one of those agencies left in the dark about the problem. Rob Joyce, the White House’s top official on matters of cybersecurity, sent out a tweet saying that the NSA was unaware of the vulnerabilities.

Intel refused to name any of the companies it warned prior to the scheduled January 9 announcement, though several of the companies had been identified, including Microsoft, Amazon, Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo, and Chinese cloud-computing firm Alibaba Group Holding. A representative from Intel said that it had planned to brief others, including the U.S. government, prior to the January 9 announcement, but the company said that it was unable to do so because the story was reported sooner than expected.

Recent correspondence to representatives from Microsoft stated that it did inform several antivirus makers about the flaws a number of weeks before the public reveal.

Jake Williams, a former employee of the National Security Agency and current president of Rendition Infosec LLC, told the Wall Street Journal that the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities would have been of great interest to any intelligence organization.

Williams also warned that it is a “near certainty” that the Chinese government was aware of Spectre and Meltdown before the U.S., given that the Communist Party closely monitors such communications.

Representatives from the Chinese government did not comment on this story. In the past, however, the country’s foreign ministry has said that it is “resolutely opposed” to all forms of hacking.

Updated on February 23: Updated information on Intel revelations.

Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Home Theater

They were robbed! From Crowe to Pacino, 10 times Oscar voters got it wrong

With the 91st Oscars rapidly approaching, now is a fine time to look back at several Oscar-worthy performances that were completely ignored by the Academy, as well as others that were nominated and astoundingly denied the little naked…
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Movies & TV

From Roma to Isle of Dogs: Here’s where to watch 2019’s Oscar nominees online

The 2019 Oscar field is a strong one, and if you missed some of the films in theaters, you may be in luck: Several of them are available on popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO.
Computing

Nvidia promises DLSS at low resolutions will be ‘top priority’ in future updates

Nvidia's deep learning super sampling needs work. Gamers know it and now we know Nvidia knows it too. The company made it clear on the technology's FAQ page that it plans to make fixing DLSS a top priority.
Computing

All signs point to a new Apple external display in 2019. Will it be 6K or 8K?

Will there be an Apple Display 2019? It looks like Apple is getting ready to announce a new monitor, after canceling its old Thunderbolt Display back in 2016. But what will this new display look like? Here's what we know.
Computing

Best Buy’s latest sale takes up to $300 off the best Chromebooks

Looking to purchase a new Chromebook? You're in for some luck. Best Buy's latest sale is taking up to $300 off some of the best premium Chromebooks, including the HP Chromebook x2.
Computing

Microsoft’s Presidents Day Sale cuts price of some Surface laptops by up to $200

It is a great time to save on Windows 10 laptops. Microsoft's retail store is running a sale on some of the best tablets and laptops, cutting pricing by up to $200 on the Surface Laptop 2 and more.
Gaming

Here’s how to set up a virtual private network (VPN) on your Xbox One

Online privacy is more important now than it's ever been, and gaming is happening online more than ever before. Here's a quick guide on how to set up a VPN for your Xbox One so you game in safe anonymity.
Computing

New Chrome feature aimed at preventing websites from blocking Incognito Mode

A new Chrome feature will prevent websites from blocking Chrome users as they browse using Incognito Mode. The feature is supposed to fix a known loophole that allows websites to detect and block those using Incognito Mode.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Computing

Don't use streaming apps? Try the best free media players for your local music

Rather than using music-streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.