Intel: Stop firmware patching until further notice

The chip giant believes it has found the root cause of the issue forcing Haswell and Broadwell chips to unexpectedly reboot.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

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Intel is recommending that people stop pushing its current firmware updates designed to address the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, and hold tight for further information later in the week.

"We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors, and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior," Intel Data Center Group general manager Navin Shenoy said in a security note.

Shenoy said Intel had released updated firmware with its partners for testing at the weekend, and asked them to test harder.

"We ask that our industry partners focus efforts on testing early versions of the updated solution so we can accelerate its release," Shenoy wrote.

"I apologise for any disruption this change in guidance may cause."

The company said it had found the root cause of the "reboot issue" affecting its Haswell and Broadwell chips, which came to light earlier this month.

When Intel admitted the crashes were also hitting its Kaby Lake and Skylake processors, its advice was to keep deploying the patches.

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Late last week, Red Hat pulled an update to the microcode package that was designed to mitigate Meltdown and Spectre.

"Red Hat is no longer providing microcode to address Spectre, variant 2, due to instabilities introduced that are causing customer systems to not boot," the company said.

"The latest microcode_ctl and linux-firmware packages are reverting these unstable microprocessor firmware changes to versions that were known to be stable and well tested, released prior to the Spectre/Meltdown embargo lift date on Jan 3rd. Customers are advised to contact their silicon vendor to get the latest microcode for their particular processor."

Yesterday, Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds let fly at proposed patches from Intel.

"They do literally insane things. They do things that do not make sense," he said. "And I really don't want to see these garbage patches just mindlessly sent around."

Torvalds said earlier this month that Intel should admit it has problems with its CPUs, instead of writing fluff stating its processors were working as designed.

Meltdown and Spectre were discovered by Project Zero researcher Jann Horn, who reported the flaws to Intel, AMD, and ARM on June 1, 2017.

Earlier this month, Microsoft had to reissue patches after its original update prevented some AMD systems from booting.

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