"But we have more work to do".
The firmware updates do protect Intel chips against potential Spectre attacks, but machines with Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake architecture processors are rebooting more frequently once the firmware has been updated, Intel said. Now, Intel says its internal testing confirms the reboots also impacts systems powered by its newer Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake and Kaby Lake chips. We don't know when an official patch for the problem will be launched, but Intel says it will be delivering microcode to its vendor partners for validation next week.
The download is called Intel-AMD-SecurityPatch-10-1-v1.exe - a filename that looks pretty legitimate, but when users install it onto their computer, they'll find it's actually laced with the Smoke Loader malware, causing the computer to connect to domains, sending encrypted information to them via additional payloads. I will also continue to provide regular updates on the status.
Things are a little less encouraging when we shift to benchmarks for storage. "Generally speaking, the workloads that incorporate a larger number of user/kernel privilege changes and spend a significant amount of time in privileged mode will be more adversely impacted", he said, which pretty much echoes what we've heard before. These benchmarks represent several common workloads important to enterprise and cloud customers. As a typical example, Intel tested a system simulating a brokerage firm's customer-broker-stock exchange interaction and found it slowed the system by four percent.
The story was different with I/O loads, however.
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Intel confirmed that the patches are affecting performance in some cases. With a 70/30 read/write model, there was a 2% decrease in throughput performance. And in some storage-related cases, the impact can be as high as 25 percent. Using SPDK vHost, we saw no impact.
Shenoy highlighted Google's software-based Retpoline fix for the Variant 2 attack as another mitigation that "could yield less impact".
The post highlights other mitigation options that have less of a performance impact, including Google's "Retpoline" security solution, which is said to have nearly no effect on a system's speed.
Intel confirms that it has reproduced these issues internally and that it's making progress toward identifying the root cause.