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Intel confirms newer chip flaws

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The Spectre and Meltdown flaws potentially let hackers steal information believed to be very secure.
The Spectre and Meltdown flaws potentially let hackers steal information believed to be very secure.

Data centre computers with Intel's newer chips might reboot more often than normal because of problems with the patches issued to fix the so-called Spectre and Meltdown security flaws, the company said yesterday.

Intel confirmed that patches for the security flaws can cause higher-than-expected reboot rates in Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake and Kaby Lake processors, said Navin Shenoy, general manager of the data centre group, in a statement on Intel's Web site.

The Kaby Lake chips are the company's most recent offering.

Last week, Intel said it had received reports that its security patches were causing problems in systems with its older Broadwell and Haswell chips.

Shenoy said Intel had issued patches for 90% of Intel chips released in the past five years but the company had "more work to do". He also said the company would send out initial versions of fixes for the buggy patches to customers by next week.

"We have reproduced these issues internally and are making progress toward identifying the root cause," Shenoy wrote.

On 3 January, Intel confirmed the Spectre and Meltdown flaws affected its chips, potentially letting hackers steal information believed to be very secure.

The Spectre flaw affected nearly every modern computing device, including those with chips from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and ARM Holdings.

Intel on Wednesday also quantified how much of a performance hit the patches cause for data centre customers. For common tasks such as running Web site servers, the patches caused a 2% slowdown, Intel said. Another test that simulated online transactions at a stock brokerage showed a 4% slowdown, the company said.

For some types for work involving servers that store large amounts of data and try to retrieve it quickly, the company said the slowdown could be as severe as 18% to 25%. However, it wasn't immediately clear how common those situations were.

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