It’s a bad time to buy PC hardware right now, what with graphics card prices going through the roof due to crytpocurrency mining and practically every CPU on the planet being vulnerable to the recently uncovered Spectre and Meltdown CPU flaws. Fortunately, PC land’s CPU woes may not be around for much longer, as Intel’s suggested its new, upcoming Cannon Lake and Ice Lake processors won’t be affected by the same security exploits as literally almost every other CPU they’ve made since 1995. Thank the blessed silicon gods.
According to HotHardware, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in the company’s latest earnings call that Intel were busy making fundamental changes to the silicon of their next set of processors in order to fix the problems caused by Spectre and Meltdown, and that we’ll start to see these “silicon-based fixes” by the end of 2018.
In case you missed the Spectre/Meltdown kerfuffle at the start of the year, these flaws allow hackers to crack open a processor’s memory contents and steal things like passwords, log-ins and other tasty personal data you might have stored there. Currently, Meltdown has only been found in Intel’s processor chips, but Spectre is more widespread, affecting Intel, AMD and ARM in equal measure. There have also been some hasty software patches released for Meltdown, but these in turn started causing some PCs to enter endless boot cycles, prompting a halt of said software patch while everyone quickly cooked up another patch for the initial patch.
It’s a mess, basically, but hopefully we’ll start to emerge from this patch-and-Meltdownageddon within the next twelve months. You’ll still have to buy a new processor in order to benefit from the fix – there’s no helping our own CPUs without an entire quilt’s worth of future patches – but at least anyone thinking about upgrading their CPU now has a better idea of when might be a good time to do so.
It’s currently unclear whether these new processors will simply be updated variants of Intel’s current gen Coffee Lake CPUs or a full-blown launch of their next gen Cannon Lake CPUs, but even if Intel does only launch Coffee Lake 2.0, as it were, it should mean that Cannon Lake and its next-next gen Ice Lake processors will also be protected against these fundamental security flaws whenever they eventually arrive.
“Security is a top priority for Intel, foundational to our products and it’s critical to the success of our data-centric strategy,” said Krzanich. “Our near-term focus is on delivering high quality mitigations to protect our customers’ infrastructure from these exploits. We’re working to incorporate silicon-based changes to future products that will directly address the Spectre and Meltdown threats in hardware. And those products will begin appearing later this year.”