Intel tells users to stop installing its buggy Spectre patches

Posted Jan 23, 2018 by James Walker
Intel's patches for the Spectre chip flaw are in some cases causing more problems than they solve. The company's executive vice president said Intel has identified the cause of random reboots but advised customers not to continue installing the update.
Intel's handling of the Meltdown and Spectre issues has already run into a barrage of issues. They culminated yesterday in a post to the Intel newsroom. After last week addressing reports of random reboots since installing the patches, Intel said it has identified the problem and is preparing for a "final release" of a revised version.
In the meantime, customers should hold off on deploying the current patches to machines not already upgraded. Intel apologised for the "disruption" that its change in guidance could cause. It said its engineers are working "around the clock" to continue resolving the problems and deploy functional firmware mitigations for the hardware issues.
"Over the weekend, we began rolling out an early version of the updated solution to industry partners for testing, and we will make a final release available once that testing has been completed," said Intel. "We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behaviour."
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Intel's current set of updates have been described by Linux creator Linus Torvalds as "complete and utter garbage." In an irate public email on the Linux mailing list, Torvalds this week slammed Intel for issuing "literally insane" patches that don't correctly address the underlying issues. He claimed Intel's hardware interface was "mis-designed by morons."
Intel's also faced criticism from second-tier cloud providers who received no advance warning of the Meltdown/Spectre disclosure. Cloud operators, OEMs and end users are likewise concerned about the potentially serious performance implications of the current set of patches. Separately, Microsoft was last week forced to stop deploying AMD's updates after they left some computers unbootable.
It's currently unclear whether Intel's upcoming new release will also mitigate some of the Meltdown/Spectre performance overhead. Intel currently seems to be focused on restoring stability to systems that have been suffering from random reboots since installing its original patches.
The revised versions are currently in testing with Intel's hardware partners. There's no indication yet of when they will be released publicly.