As the company has previously indicated, Intel has redesigned its 8th-generation processors to make them bulletproof to Meltdown and one variant of Spectre at a hardware level.
Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich says that the re-engineered 8th-gen Coffee Lake – and also Xeon – CPUs with baked-in protection at the silicon level will start to ship in the second half of this year. That’s exactly what he promised in an earnings call back in January, and now we've learned more about those plans.
The initial chips to see the benefit will be next-gen Intel Scalable processors that are codenamed Cascade Lake, and Intel’s 8th-gen Core CPUs as mentioned.
Krzanich clarified that the new integrated defenses would combat Meltdown and Spectre Variant 2, although as expected, software patches will still be needed for these new chips to combat Spectre Variant 1. Indeed, as we’ve heard previously, we may have to wait for all-new, 9th-gen chips for the latter bugbear to be addressed at a hardware level…
For the latest on how to protect yourself from Spectre and Meltdown, read our comprehensive guide.
So what exactly has been done inside these chips to add protection from these vulnerabilities? Intel has redesigned the processors to add fresh protection in the form of partitioning.
Krzanich explains (opens in new tab): “Think of this partitioning as additional ‘protective walls’ between applications and user privilege levels to create an obstacle for bad actors.”
Intel’s chief executive also reminded us that the company has now released revamped microcode updates for 100% of its products launched in the last five years (i.e. going back to and including Haswell, as we saw a couple of weeks back).
Those fixes may still take their time coming to your machine though, as Intel sends them to manufacturers, who then have to deploy the updates. Although, Microsoft is lending a helping hand, too.
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