Tech website The Register reports that chip giant Intel has a bug that lets some software gain access to parts of a computer’s memory which are set aside to protect things like passwords. The news sent INTC stock sliding over 2% to $45.90, while rival AMD surged as much as 6.2% as costly patches to Windows and OS X will be required and the security updates will slow down older machinery by up to 30%.
As the Register adds, "programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel's virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December."
Crucially, these updates to both Linux and Windows will incur a performance hit on Intel products. The effects are still being benchmarked, however we're looking at a ballpark figure of five to 30% slow down, depending on the task and the processor model. More recent Intel chips have features – such as PCID – to reduce the performance hit. Your mileage may vary.
It's not just Windows: similar operating systems, such as Apple's 64-bit macOS, will also need to be updated – the flaw is in the Intel x86-64 hardware, and it appears a microcode update can't address it. It has to be fixed in software at the OS level, or go buy a new processor without the design blunder.
According to Bloomberg, Intel has more than 80% market share overall and more than 90% in laptops and servers.