Intel Announces New CPU Hardware Protections to Prevent Future Spectre-Like Flaws

Intel announced today that upcoming CPU models would include brand new hardware-level protections to prevent any future Meltdown and Spectre-like vulnerabilities.

Intel processors featuring these hardware-level protections will start shipping out in the second half of 2018.

The company said that these protections are currently being added to 8th Generation Intel Core processors and Intel Xeon Scalable processors (codenamed Cascade Lake).

Intel adds “protective walls” to future CPU models

Intel describes the new hardware protection measures as “partitions” or “protective walls,” keeping malicious code in a physically different location from areas of the CPU were speculative execution is taking place, and so preventing the attacker from ever interacting with those types of operations.

The current hardware-level protections are meant to mitigate both the Meltdown (CVE-2017-5754) and Spectre variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715) vulnerabilities, but they will also be effective against any other type of malicious code that tries to tap into the speculative execution process. Please refer to the video above for a visual demonstration of how Intel has designed this new protection system.

Intel has microcode updates for all major CPU series

In addition to revealing this new CPU security feature, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also announced that his company has now released Meltdown and Spectre CPU microcode updates for “100 percent of Intel products launched in the past five years.”

Intel has forwarded these CPU microcode updates to OEM manufacturers that will now have to re-release them as BIOS or motherboard firmware updates, and make them available to end users.

For some types of Intel CPUs, Intel has partnered with Microsoft to package these CPU microcode updates as Windows Update files that are available on the Microsoft Update Catalog.

The list of supported Intel CPU models for which you can install the microcode updates via a (downloadable) Windows Update file is available here.