Intel confirms that their Spectre Patch has problems – new updates incoming

Intel admits that Haswell and Broadwell users suffer reboot issues after security firmware updates

Intel confirms that their Spectre Patch has problems – new updates incoming

Intel’s response to Spectre and Meltdown has been far from perfect, with the company refusing to acknowledge that they are the worst affected by this series of exploits, most notably Meltdown. While Intel has been quick to release firmware fixes, it is clear that Intel’s latest firmware has been rushed, causing “higher level reboots” on Haswell and Broadwell based systems, a severe issue for data center users. 

The company has now confirmed that they have found the root cause of Haswell/Broadwell’s reboot issues and have started releasing early versions of their fix, recommending that users stop deploying Intel’s existing Spectre-fixing firmware updates (on affected platforms), a significant U-turn for the company.    

Intel first reported this issue on January 11th, advising that clients update their firmware despite these reported problems. This advice has had customers installing buggy firmware on their systems for eleven days after Intel became aware of the issue, recommending an action that they knew could cause reboot issues on critical systems. 

Below is an update from Navin Shenoy, Intel’s executive vice president and general manager of their Data Center Group.   

     As we start the week, I want to provide an update on the reboot issues we reported Jan. 11. We have now identified the root cause for Broadwell and Haswell platforms, and made good progress in developing a solution to address it. Over the weekend, we began rolling out an early version of the updated solution to industry partners for testing, and we will make a final release available once that testing has been completed.

Based on this, we are updating our guidance for customers and partners:

– We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior. For the full list of platforms, see the Intel.com Security Center site.

– We ask that our industry partners focus efforts on testing early versions of the updated solution so we can accelerate its release. We expect to share more details on timing later this week.


– We continue to urge all customers to vigilantly maintain security best practice and for consumers to keep systems up-to-date.


I apologize for any disruption this change in guidance may cause. The security of our products is critical for Intel, our customers and partners, and for me, personally. I assure you we are working around the clock to ensure we are addressing these issues.

I will keep you updated as we learn more and thank you for your patience.

 

These Haswell/Broadwell firmware issues are expected to delay the release of updated X99 and other firmware on the consumer market, at least until these issues are resolved. We are currently awaiting a firmware fix for our ASUS ROG X99 Strix to test the performance impact of firmware-level Spectre fixes on the platform.  
   

Intel admits that Haswell and Broadwell users suffer reboot issues after security firmware updates

 

If there are two things that the server/enterprise market doesn’t like it is security and reliability issues. Thanks to the announcement of Spectre and Meltdown many service providers are currently undergoing unscheduled maintenance, with firmware updates causing reliability concerns pouring more salt into this fresh wound. 

Spectre and Meltdown have already shaken the world’s confidence in Intel, with these firmware issues only deepening the cracks in Intel’s record. It is likely that more customers will consider alternatives to Intel in the future because of these problems, giving AMD and ARM a huge opportunity to gain traction within the enterprise market. 

You can join the discussion on Intel’s Spectre firmware having reliability problems on the OC3D Forums.