Major tech companies, including Intel, Microsoft and Google, scrambled to calm the mood this week after a large number of computer users reported performance problems linked to security updates for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Unfortunately there have been reports on some AMD Windows PCs 'bricking', especially with patches for older AMD processors (AMD Opteron, Athlon and AMD Turion X2 Ultra families). As a part of that vigilance, I wanted to update the community on our actions to address the situation.
The aftermath of the publicising of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities has seen many report slower machines as protective patch updates are installed. Earlier in the week, Microsoft had to pause updates for devices with AMD chips following customer complaints of machines freezing at start-up.
Timely adoption of software and firmware patches by consumers and system manufacturers is critical, said Krzanich, adding that transparent and timely sharing of performance data by hardware and software developers is essential to rapid progress. These threats seek to circumvent the microprocessor architecture controls that preserve secure data. These references may be selective, may reference only a portion of an article or recommendation, and are likely not to be current.
Variants to the flaw exist where malware could potentially gain access to the memory of other applications (in the case of Spectre) or where malware could gain access to a device's memory (in the case of Meltdown).
"The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities require adjustment to critical, low-level interfaces in affected operating systems", said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud security at Trend Micro. So, out of an abundance of caution AMD will be making optional micro code updates available to further contain the threat. These updates will be provided to users by system providers and operating system vendors. Just recently, Microsoft shared an advisory as well, telling that the users of older Intel-based PCs should expect the biggest hit. Ryzen and EPYC processor microcode updates will be available this week - from both system and OS vensors.
The firm added that workloads that are graphic and compute intensive (such as gaming and financial analysis respectively) will impact performance very minimally.
In particular, he thanked the Google Project Zero team for practising responsible disclosure, creating the opportunity for the industry to address these issues in a co-ordinated way.