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Microsoft releases update to disable Intel's faulty Spectre patch

30 January 2018

News about the flaws broke on January 3, just a few days before Intel planned to publicly announce the chip flaw discovery. This was important because Meltdown - which allows malware to extract passwords and other secrets from an Intel-powered computer's memory - is pretty easy to exploit, and cloud-computing environments were particularly exposed as they allow customers to share servers. For the full list of devices, see Intel's microcode revision guidance.

Microsoft has now stepped in to play ringmaster and has issued an update for Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 that temporarily disable the fixes.

The Spectre and Meltdown flaws were enough to make people uncomfortable, a report published by the Wall Street Journal sheds more light on the matter.

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Detailed at this link, Microsoft's patch KB4078130 will disable Intel's mitigation against Spectre variant 2. Intel is testing the new update on all processor to ensure that no performance and reboot issues occur in the patched systems.

Microsoft's move follows Intel last week warning users that numerous firmware updates it had released for Spectre were causing instability problems - including frequent rebooting.

"Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption", Microsoft adds.

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Since then, some updates to chips made by Intel and AMD were later revealed to cause their own problems.

While Intel Corp has confirmed two security flaws - "Meltdown and "Spectre" - in its chips that were vulnerable to hacking the company's CEO Brian Krzanich has allayed fears of any data breach". The update can be downloaded from the Microsoft Update Catalog, while advanced users can manually disable the mitigation causing the issues independently via registry setting changes. This update will only disable mitigation against CVE-2017-5715, while keeping the fixes for Meltdown and Spectre variant 1 in place.

In such a situation, it is OK for a company to reach out to customers first so that they're able to develop patches and mitigate security concerns as quickly as possible before the news goes public. Avoiding data loss or corruption is a priority, and with the Intel "fix", they are both a real possibility. Intel, meanwhile, told customers last week to refrain from installing current firmware updates created to counter the threats until further instructions.

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Microsoft releases update to disable Intel's faulty Spectre patch