Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 patch will address Spectre Variant 2 CPU flaw

Microsoft now provides a new manual update for Windows 10 devices based on sixth-generation Intel processors. It addresses the Spectre Variant 2 flaw in these CPUs, which could give hackers access to sensitive information if they have direct contact with the device. The fix is specifically for Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update) and Windows Server version 1709 (Server Core). 

The update applies to most Intel sixth-generation processors in the mainstream market: High-performance desktop chips (S), high-performance mobile chips (H), low-power mobile CPUs (U), ultra-low-power chips in tablets (Y), and those that fall under Intel’s Skylake-U32e umbrella. You can determine the generation of your CPU by the number following the hyphen in its name, such as the “6” in the Core i7-6820HK laptop CPU. 

The manual Windows 10 update arrives after Intel issued revised updates addressing the Meltdown and Spectre exploits uncovered by Google Project Zero. The company began rolling out fixes in December 2017 just before the exploits when live, but Intel soon pulled the distributions based on reports of incompatibility and frequent system reboots. 

In addition to addressing security issues in sixth-generation CPUs, Intel newest update also attacks Meltdown and Spectre on seventh-generation (Kaby Lake) and eighth-generation (Coffee Lake) chips. That includes the company’s Core-branded processors, the massive Core-X chips, Xeon Scalable CPUs, and the Xeon D processors. But Microsoft’s manual update only applies to sixth-generation chips. 

“This update is a standalone update available through the Microsoft Update Catalog,” the company says. “This update also includes Intel microcode updates that were already released for these Operating Systems at the time of Release To Manufacturing (RTM). We will offer additional microcode updates from Intel thru this KB Article for these Operating Systems as they become available to Microsoft.” 

Typically, device owners can grab the Meltdown and Spectra updates in three ways: through motherboard manufacturers and device manufacturers like Dell and HP, and through Microsoft via Windows Update. For the former two, refreshed firmware updates the processor with new microcode. Meanwhile, Windows does something similar as it boots the device. 

But in this case, Microsoft makes the Spectre patch available through the Microsoft Update Catalog for a wide, manual distribution across multiple Windows 10 devices. There are two patches provided by Microsoft, one of which is designed for x64-based systems. After installation, you may be required to start your PC. 

Previously, Microsoft issued an update for Spectre Variant 2 for Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10, but issued another update to reverse the mitigation due to performance issues and unexpected reboots. On January 22, Intel requested that all device manufacturers and operating system developers cease distributing updates until Intel addressed the issues. Now the company appears to be quite confident that it squashed all the microcode bugs. 

“This effort has included extensive testing by customers and industry partners to ensure the updated versions are ready for production,” Navin Shenoy, Intel’s executive vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group, said in a statement. “On behalf of all of Intel, I thank each and every one of our customers and partners for their hard work and partnership throughout this process.” 

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