Major security flaw found in Intel processors

Required fixes within Windows, mac OS and Linux to slow down millions of computers

It is feared that the security flaw within the Intel processors could be used to access passwords, login details and other protected information on the computer. Photograph: Getty Images

It is feared that the security flaw within the Intel processors could be used to access passwords, login details and other protected information on the computer. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A security flaw has been found in virtually all Intel processors that will require fixes within Windows, mac OS and Linux, according to reports.

Developers are currently scrambling behind the scenes to fix the significant security hole within the Intel chips, with patches already available within some versions of Linux and some testing versions of Windows, although the fixes are expected to significantly slow down computers.

The specific details of the flaw, which appears to affect virtually all Intel processors made in the last decade and therefore millions of computers running virtually any operating system, are being kept under embargo.

But details of the fixes being developed point to issues involving the accessing of secure parts of a computer’s memory by regular programs. It is feared that the security flaw within the Intel processors could be used to access passwords, login details and other protected information on the computer.

Affect performance

The fixes involve moving the memory used by the core of the computer’s operating system, known as the kernel, away from that used by normal programs. In that way, normal programs, including anything from javascript from a website to computer games, cannot be manipulated to exploit the hole and gain access to the protected kernel memory.

But implementing the fix is expected to significantly affect the performance of the computer, making some actions up to around 30 per cent slower.

While normal computer users could see performance problems, the security flaw also affects cloud servers, with Amazon, Microsoft and Google all expected to have to fix the bug with similar performance-reducing patches.

The exact severity of the flaw has not yet been publicly disclosed, but the lengths being taken by the various operating system developers to fix something indicates that they view it as a serious problem that apparently cannot be patched with a small update.

More details are expected to be divulged as soon as the end of this week, along with fixes for operating systems.

Intel did not respond to request for comment.

– Guardian Service