Intel’s new Cannon Lake and Ice Lake CPUs might fix Spectre and Meltdown flaws

Hopefully, Intel's Cannon Lake CPUs will blow a giant hole in these Spectre and Meltdown flaws

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.”

29 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Earl-Grey says:

    Great, wonderful, I’ll just go pry the cunting old Haswell CPU out of my sodding laptop and stuff one of these shiny, pricey new ones in then, you tosspot minge CEO?

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      Agreed. Intel have really screwed the pooch

    • Solidstate89 says:

      The article is a little misleading. The only way to get the full “fix” without the performance loss that it incurs by having to eliminate speculative processing is only capable with getting a whole new CPU. Those fixed can only be done in-silicon.

      However between kernel patches in Windows, Linux and MacOS along with microcode updates from Intel and AMD, your current machine is capable of being patched and having the flaws eliminated. They’re not “fixed”, but they do eliminate things like speculative processing that allows these flaws to be executed in the first place.

      However those of us with older CPUs (my desktop runs Haswell like your laptop) have to wait longer for the microcode updates as when Intel first began pushing them they were causing boot loops which is what they pulled. You should still be fairly safe even with just the kernel patches in Windows and other OSes, but those kernel patches with the microcode updates (which AMD needs to perform as well) is the only way to get the best mitigation of this exploit.

      Short of buying new hardware of course.

      • Premium User Badge

        Earl-Grey says:

        Let me be perfectly honest for a moment:
        I have no, nooo, NOOOOOO, idea what Spectre and Meltdown actually do/cause/whatever.
        I just know I’m affected and my body craves outrage like a Heroin addict craves the good stuff.

        • Hogans heroes says:

          I appreciate the honesty and self-awareness. I for one, tend to get my outrage kicks by being outraged at outrage, which is just as bad really.

        • Steed says:

          I also have almost NOOOOOO idea what it all is, but I have the vague impression it won’t really affect Josephine Blogger and is more a concern for server folk. I’m gonna keep riding the i5 2500k until it goes pop.

          Fingers crossed the silicone fix will be out by then and CPU’s will be even beefier!

  2. Artist says:

    “Security is a top priority for Intel, foundational to our products and it’s critical to the success of our data-centric strategy”
    Yes, and while security is so much their top priority they had no problem to release the current cpu generation while being perfectly aware of their flaws… Damn liars…

    • Morcane says:

      It’s even worse, since it’s not only the current generation that has these flaws, but every previous generation since 1995 has them too.

      • Artist says:

        Ok, but lets give Intel the benefit of doubt that they didnt know about the flaw until it was discovered early 2017.
        So releasing the 8th generation CPUs while knowing about the critical exploits is pretty much criminal!

    • Baines says:

      They didn’t say security was the top priority, just that it was a top priority. Making money is obviously a much higher top priority.

      It’s about like when I pointed out to a boss that our company’s motivational/PR speech listed two contradictory things as the single top priority, and both of those contradicted the office’s real top priority (which was an underplayed third in the speech.)

  3. Tholesund says:

    Spectre is more widespread, affecting Intel, AMD and ARM in equal measure.

    It would be fair to point out that AMD is for all practical intents and purposes immune to the more easily exploited variant of Spectre (variant 2).

    That said, it’s certainly possible that the category of side-channel vulnerabilities represented by the two Spectre variants will grow in the future, as hackers across the world greedily dig into and attempt to widen this newly revealed fissure in the foundations of modern computing.

    If or when that happens, AMD users might not be safe anymore.

  4. dangermouse76 says:

    Wikipedia.

    The Tsar Cannon is a large early modern period artillery piece on display on the grounds of the Moscow Kremlin. It is a monument of Russian artillery casting art, cast in bronze in 1586 in Moscow, by the Russian master bronze caster Andrey Chokhov.

    Apparently not a canon, it’s a stylized mortar.

  5. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    Intel definitely doesn’t prioritize data security or we wouldn’t be in this mess. That goes for basically all of the processor manufacturers.

    And it goes for us too. Even before 2000 we knew that these exploits were theoretically possible, but we didn’t care because the performance benefit of speculative execution and branch prediction is so great. Would you all seriously cut your performance 30% or more to mitigate against these problems?

    Hopefully Intel knows a way to keep the performance benefits while ensuring against these kinds of problems, but if that’s the case one wonders why they or their competitors haven’t taken care of it at any point in the past 20 years. I suspect one of two things: A) It’s basically impossible to architect a secure model that is also highly performant, B) they were just extremely lazy and/or cheap about making the required design changes.

    I guess time will tell. Thanks to the pyramid schemers in cryptocoin land I won’t be upgrading my PC for a long time anyway, so I’ll just settle in and grab some popcorn.

  6. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    “Might fix Meltdown and Spectre”

    Translation: Might hopefully kill off the backlash surrounding Meltdown and Spectre while we work on implementing new backdoors that will inevitably be found a decade later.

  7. foop says:

    Given Intel’s abysmal handling of the process so far, I’m not going to believe that until a third party has confirmed it in testing.

  8. Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

    “99% of previously sold goods are dangerous – buy this new safe line-up of goods!”
    It’s like a marketer’s wet dream come true.
    I mean, that does sound paranoid that all of it might have been somehow planned, but then again I live in a world where “Planned obsolescence” is actually being taught as a viable way to sustain our way of living.

  9. Dogshevik says:

    I like the part where we are told to throw money at the people that got us into this mess until the problem goes away. (for a while)

    You know, instead of sueing the living crap out of them.

  10. snowsurfer says:

    Still no plans on changing my 4690K any time soon. I’d like a bigger SSD (500Gb 840 Evo now), but I won’t be getting that until the price gouging ends. If I change CPU, I’d like at least the same amount of RAM I have now (16Gb), and also won’t be buying until the stupid current prices go down.

    I kinda think Intel could have almost done this on purpose. Hey, we don’t need Moore’s law any more since PCs are just strong enough for almost anything, barring high end workstation specific work. Let’s pull this out of our sleeve and now EVERYONE needs to upgrade. Far fetched – but not impossible.

    I’d also like to see Intel really hurt because of this, and hopefully AMD has a Ryzen v2 up their sleeve, with better IPC, better OC and higher standard clocks. One can only dream…

    Until then, 4690K@4.5, 980TI SLI, still going quite strong.

  11. TheAngriestHobo says:

    So about ten seconds ago I finished watching a video preview of Genital Jousting’s story mode.

    I definitely did not see this header image as a cannon.

  12. zulnam says:

    To people who only game: relax, check for updates, and run dodgy websites (i.e porn) using Chrome/Firefox site isolation.

    I will go on a limb and say that the people who use these vulnerabilities really don’t care about the 50$ you have in your paypal account and bank accounts have a level of protection of their own. As for your email password, lol.

    They’re hunting whales; corporate or government ones.

  13. racccoon says:

    Not that I had much hassle in the way of invaders as i stamped them all out, n’ still do today. Surely thou there should be some compensation or at least like microsoft has done & that is to allow hard core customers a discount or free ride on there new product.

    P.S.
    Off Topic:
    RockPaperShotGun Team:
    This is “THE” number one gaming media site in the world today! Your information on games daily is by far the greatest to walk this earth of ours.
    Cheers for your dedication to our needs.

  14. Imperialist says:

    Sad thing is, knowing Intel…this was all an elaborate plan. Nothing says winning market strategy like “Theres this bug, and we patched it, but the only way to REEAAALLLY be sure is to buy our new flagship CPU for 300% market value, with a 3.5% performance increase over the last 5 generations.”

    Theyve been peddling the same crap, and now that their flaw has been outed as being under their nose since the turn of the millenium, their “solution” is to sell stuff to you.

    The tech world is in a terrible place lately…fake money, Spectre/Meltdown, the Great GPU Shortage. Something needs to be done.

  15. PiiSmith says:

    Your suggested solution is that I give you more money to solve the problem? You should give me a new CPU to solve the problem w/o additional cost.

  16. elevown says:

    Guess I was lucky – I bought my 1070 just before Christmas – now I can’t find them anywhere online for less than £200 MORE than what I paid! I wondered wtf was going on till I heard about all this crypto mining. Hard to believe it is being done so much it is buying up all the gpus.

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