Google Explains Meltdown, Spectre Fix Impact On Cloud Services

Intel Fumbles Its Patch for Chip Flaw

Nvidia says its GPU hardware is 'immune' to Meltdown and Spectre flaws (updated)

The company's Project Zero team discovered the chip vulnerabilities previous year as it outlined in a blog post last week.

It was able to do this "without any performance degradation" or slowdown in services like Gmail, it adds.

Intel has warned that its fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities rushed out this week may inadvertently have made customers' PCs and servers less stable. Since the first Chromebook was introduced back in mid-2011, there are a few of these machines who have reached their end of life already, so they will not get these essential security patches. Devices using the 7th Gen Kaby Lake-H mobile processors will be around 7% slower, while the performance impact on systems with the 6th Gen Skylake-S platform is estimated to be around 8%. For one of the variants of Spectre, which Google says proved to be a lot more problematic, its engineers came up with a technique called "Reptoline", which modifies programs to ensure that execution can not be influenced by an attacker. Google's initial investigations suggested the only way to mitigate Spectre Variant 2 was to disable the CPU performance-optimizing features it targeted.

Google claims that they have had no performance complaints since implementing these solutions, a big win for customers. This binary modification that ensures programs can not be influenced by branch target injection.

The Retpoline technique allowed Google to protect its services from the second variant of Spectre without having to modify source codes or switch off hardware components. Google says the final version of its Retpoline patch came with nearly no performance hit. By December, Google was done rolling out protections against all three variants of Spectre. The company pulled together hundreds of engineers in search of a better solution - a "Moonshot" as Google likes to say.

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Still, Google concedes that "this set of vulnerabilities was perhaps the most challenging and hardest to fix in a decade, requiring changes to many layers of the software stack".

Fortunately, Google has chose to share the details of Retpoline with the rest of the industry. With Retpoline, we didn't need to disable speculative execution or other hardware features.

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