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Intel confirms that Whiskey Lake bring in-silicon Spectre/Meltdown fixes to consumers

These fixes won't address all forms of Spectre

Intel confirms that Whiskey Lake bring in-silicon Spectre/Meltdown fixes to consumers

Intel confirms that Whiskey Lake bring in-silicon Spectre/Meltdown fixes to consumers

Back in March, Intel CEO (now former CEO), Brian Krzanich, announced that the company would start shipping processors with Spectre hardware mitigations later this year, in-silicon fixes that will patch these exploits at their source.

Now, Intel has confirmed that their new Whiskey Lake series processors will bring in-silicon Spectre/Meltdown mitigations to the consumer market for the first time, addressing Variant 3, Meltdown, and Variant 5, L1 Termination Fault. Sadly, these fixes will not mitigate all forms of Speculative Execution attacks, but it is nonetheless a positive step for Intel. 

The downside of today's Spectre mitigations is their performance impact, with Intel's latest hardware-based fixes lowering the harmful effects of their side-channel remedies. Sadly, Intel has not commented on how much these performance losses have been reduced.

It is expected to take several years for Intel and their competitors to be free from the shadow of Spectre, especially given the number of new side-channel vulnerabilities that have been discovered over the past few months. 

Intel plans to add additional Side-Channel mitigations to their future processor designs, further hardening their resistance fo Spectre-like attacks.

 
VulnerabilitySide-Channel MethodWhiskey Lake MitigationCascade Lake Mitigation
Variant 1 (Spectre)Bounds Check BypassOSOS
Variant 2 (Spectre)Branch Target PredictionMicrocode + OSIn Silicon + OS
Variant 3 (Meltdown)Rogue Data Cache LoadIn-SiliconIn-Silicon
Variant 3aRogue System Register LeadMicrocode + OSFirmware
Variant 4 Speculative Store BypassMicrocode + OSMicrocode/OS
Variant 5

L1 Terminal Fault

In-SiliconIn-Silicon
 

Intel's upcoming Cascade Lake server processors currently sport Spectre mitigations that Whiskey Lake lacks, containing some in-silicon fixes for Spectre Variant 2, though these mitigations still need to be combined with OS-level fixes. 

Right now, Intel's planned 9000-series processors are expected to contain the same hardware mitigations as Whiskey Lake. 

You can join the discussion on Whiskey Lake's in-silicon Spectre/Meltdown fixes on the OC3D Forums.  

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