Let’s just start 2018 with a bang, shall we? If you thought Intel’s mind-boggling security flaw of late 2017 was a jaw dropper, this latest one is has got to be the “hold my beer” moment of 2018, and we’re only 3 days into the new year. Intel is topping itself with what appears to be a devastating hardware flaw that is requiring a major kernel redesign in both Windows and Linux-based operating systems. I chose the word “devastating” for good reason: analysts are predicting the rewrite to the kernels could result in up to a 30% performance decrease in just about every computer using an Intel processor and Windows or Linux operating systems. There’s also a good chance Apple’s OS will need to be patched to fix this flaw, as it is subject to the same hardware-level design goof.
What this means for you
Every computer made with an Intel chip produced in the last decade is affected. This results in one of two possible outcomes:
- If you are running on an operating system that is due to be patched (all supported Windows flavors from 7 on, most Linux builds, Mac OSX) then you may experience a slow-down in performance, possibly as much as 30% for certain computing tasks.
- If you are running on an operating system that won’t be patched, your Intel CPU has a major security flaw that can only be fixed by either replacing it with a CPU that doesn’t have this flaw, which, for the moment, doesn’t exist.
If you are exclusively a mobile device user – most of them are built with non-Intel CPUs, or you have a computer built on an AMD processor, this bug doesn’t impact you directly, but you are still likely to be affected. Analysts are predicting this flaw and the workaround implemented by software developers will heavily impact cloud computing hosts like Amazon, Azure and Google Compute, which happen to host most of the world’s websites and virtual computing platforms. So now on top of possible bandwidth throttling from ISPs free of Net Neutrality regulation, you can also look forward to everything on the web being just a little bit slower, at least for the foreseeable future.
Once again, you as the end-user can do little to fix or prevent this. Windows 7 and 8 users have the option of not applying OS updates, but given the severity of the CPU flaw, this is probably a much worse choice than taking a (possible) 30% performance hit. Same goes for Linux and Mac OSX users – patching is still optional, but the security risk is likely very high for not patching this significant vulnerability. And Windows 10 users? Unless you are in the rarefied company of an enterprise-managed Windows 10 environment (essentially no one in the SMB space at the moment) you will be getting patched whether you want it or not, as there is no way to opt out of updates, save never connecting to the internet. And let’s face it, if you don’t connect to the internet with your Windows 10 machine, you are already ten times safer than the rest of us.