Intel issues Meltdown/Spectre fixes for Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge as patch effort winds down

If you own an Intel processor that you bought less than eight years ago, chances are that Intel has issued a Spectre/Meltdown patch for it.

Intel's revised patches for its Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge processor families have begun rolling out to address Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. With the release of the new code, just a few older processor families remain in the patch queue.

According to Intel's microcode update document, patches for several processor families have entered production, most notably the second-generation Core (Sandy Bridge) and third-generation Core (Ivy Bridge) families. The patches also cover several, more niche architectures, such as the Gladden Xeon of the Sandy Bridge generation, and the Broadwell Xeon chips. 

On deck are the Westmere Xeons, based upon 2010's first-generation Core architecture, as well as Westmere's predecessors, the Nehalem Xeon chips. Intel has issued beta patches for these, as well as some of the Arrandale and Clarkdale chips. The latter families, which include both mobile and desktop chips, began shipping in 2010 as well.

The remainder of Intel's microcode guidance document shows just a few chip architectures waiting for patches, including the remainder of the Arrandale and Clarkdale families. The even older Bloomfield Core processors are still waiting on patches to exit the pre-beta stage, as is the Clarksfield chip family. The latter, which included a Core i7 Extreme mobile processor, shipped until 2012.

Chip architectures from other companies, including AMD and Qualcomm, are susceptible to both the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Intel's use of speculative execution techniques within its microprocessors, however, have made the company's products particularly prone to risk from these threats. Soon after the two vulnerabilities were publicly disclosed in early January, Intel began issuing patches for the affected processors, which included the bulk of its products. Unfortunately, those patches were found to cause system instability, forcing Intel to halt and then reissue new code. 

Since then, Intel's patching teams have been steadily marching through Intel's product lines, issuing updated code. The updates to Intel's patch roadmap are current as of March 6, Intel said. 

What this means for you: Fortunately, no known attacks exploiting either Spectre or Meltdown have occurred. If you're worried about what to do, though, the answer is simple: patch, patch, patch. By now, Microsoft and many antivirus vendors have issued the appropriate patches, but if you're concerned that your PC or motherboard vendor hasn't delivered the appropriate patch, you can also check Microsoft's site

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Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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