Microsoft releases emergency Windows update to hamstring earlier 'Spectre' defence

Intel Warned Chinese Companies of Chip Flaws Before US Government

But Microsoft appears to have taken matters into its own hands and has issued a patch that disables Intel's fix for the second variant of the Spectre bug. Intel reported its fourth-quarter earnings last week, after which the stock jumped almost 10% despite the news about Meltdown and Spectre continuing to trickle in.

The Wall Street Journal says this raises a number of concerns as it means information about the security flaws in the chips might have been given to the Chinese government before Intel made a public notice.

There's no immediate evidence to suggest that China has taken advantage of the flaws, but that's not the point - it's that the U.S. government could have helped coordinate disclosures to ensure that enough companies had fixes in place. While there hasn't been any indication that China has taken advantage of the flaws, the report reveals Intel's glaring mistake to keep the U.S. government in the dark and thereby delaying the response time for issuing fixes.

Microsoft has rushed out a system update that will disable the sloppy mitigation patch deployed earlier by Intel for Spectre vulnerabilities detected on Windows systems.

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Microsoft released an update over the weekend that disables a patch to Intel central processing units after reports that the patch caused unexpected reboots and other other problems. This update covers Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8.1, and all versions of Windows 10, for client and server. "Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption", Microsoft added in a support page this weekend. However, the patch was found to cause some slowdown with Intel processors.

Intel's move isn't sitting well with United States security experts. "Standard and well-established practice on initial disclosure is to work with industry participants to develop solutions and deploy fixes ahead of publication".

Intel CEO Bryan Kraznich recently said the chipmaker is working on a new design for processors that would incorporate "silicon-based changes" to mitigate the threat posed by the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. (That's the type of vulnerability that applies to Spectre and Meltdown.) That's KB4073119, and it outlines PowerShell scripts to check vulnerability protections, and registry tweaks to enable or disable them.

While software makers - such as OS and browser vendors - were first to deliver fixes, Intel and other processor designers quickly followed with firmware updates.

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