A major design flaw within Intel processors can give attackers kernel level privileges on any system. Latest reports suggest that it is tied to the speculative execution of code on the CPU. This feature of Intel processors will try to guess what instructions will be called next and executes them beforehand to minimize idle time. While this was meant to minimize idle times and speed-up executions this also has a disadvantage: privileges are not checked before the real code is being called leading to the possibility of getting kernel level access.
The big problem now is that a fix can’t be implemented via microcode and therefore has to be rolled out on an OS basis. Linux and Microsoft are working on patches and beta versions are already being rolled out. The first patch within the Linux Kernel penalized all x86 processors which lead to AMD to release a statement as well as reaching out to people working on the Linux Kernel by sending a statement to the Linux Kernel mailing list.
So who is actually affected by a possible so called meltdown attack? According to the analysts almost everyone using an Intel processor released after 1995 with a few exceptions. Even the latest generation as well as upcoming CPUs will be affected. But if this isn’t bad enough the only ways to fix these vulnerabilities will deal some heavy blows to the performance processors that depend on the given task and can cripple it by up 60%.
While is remains to be seen how severe these decreases will be in specific tasks gaming seems to not affected at all. But with the latest patches removing the penalty for AMD processors after finding them unaffected by the vulnerability Intel might have to live with some setbacks in the server segment. Could this be the reason Intel CEO Brian Krzanich got rid of 24 mill. $ worth of Intel shares last year after supposedly getting first hints about this flaw?