Intel’s chief executive has said software fixes to address the recently discovered Meltdown and Spectre bugs in microchips would be released in the next few days.
Brian Krzanich was speaking at the beginning of his keynote speech at the CES trade show event in Las Vegas. He said 90% of processors and products from the past five years would be patched “within a week”. Intel has faced scrutiny after details of the flaws emerged last week. Meltdown and Spectre are unusual in that they are both problems with a fundamental component inside modern computers – the central processing unit (CPU). They allow attackers to potentially access sensitive data held in the chip’s memory that would otherwise be off limits. Mr Krzanich took a moment at the beginning of his address at the tech fair to refer to the design issues discovered by researchers on some Intel, ARM and AMD chips. However, he did not apologise on his firm’s behalf for what he described as an industry-wide problem.
Security is key
Before we start I want to take a moment to thank the industry for coming together. Security is job number one for Intel and our industry, so the primary focus of our decisions and discussions have been to keep our customer’s data safe.
He added that there had to date been no confirmed cases in which customer data had been accessed via exploits designed to take advantage of the flaws. And he reiterated advice that users should apply security updates as soon as possible to protect themselves from malicious hackers. “It’s clear this is not just an Intel problem,” said Geoff Blaber, an analyst from CCS Insight who was at the keynote.
At least Intel and others have been able to respond in a reasonably efficient manner.
Mr Krzanich used the rest of his time on stage to explore new technologies that use Intel’s products – including “volumetric” video capture that maps a scene or sports field in 3D, so the viewer can watch from practically any angle they choose. There was also reference to the company’s work in experimental computing architectures, including quantum computing. In quantum computing, qubits – which can have a state of either zero or one simultaneously – take over from traditional bits.
Intel has developed a 49-qubit chip, Mr Krzanich announced, putting the firm on a par with rivals IBM and Google, which have been working on chips at a similar scale. It is thought that millions of qubits will be needed for a quantum computer to offer revolutionary processing capabilities, however. There was also discussion of how Intel’s tech is being built into self-driving cars.
Its chip-making rival Nvidia had boasted earlier in the week that it was working with more than 320 partners on self-drive vehicles, including Uber and VW. Intel also showed off the experimental Volocopter “flying taxi” – which briefly flew on stage, behind a protective barrier. Finally, the keynote closed with a light show powered by 100 Shooting Star Mini drones that did not rely on GPS for navigation – something Mr Krzanich said was an official Guinness World Record. Mr Blaber said:
It’s an excellent showcase for the technology and it does give the brand a boost – it’s a very effective marketing exercise. It was an exhausting two hour event but it goes to show, that’s how many fronts Intel is working on.