The new year has indeed started out with a bang for the computer industry.
Two highly publicized security flaws in the Intel x86 chip architecture have now emerged. They appear to affect other microprocessors made by AMD and designs licensed by ARM.
And they may be some of the worst computer bugs in history — if not the worst — because they exist in hardware, not software, and in systems that number in the billions.
These flaws, known as Meltdown and Spectre, are real doozies. They are so serious and far-reaching that the only potential fix in the immediate future is a software workaround that, when implemented, may slow down certain types of workloads as much as 30 percent.
In fact, the potential compromise to the affected systems is so widespread that the flaws are exhibited in the fundamental systems architecture of the chips themselves, and they may have been around in some form since 1995.
That’s going back to when Friends was the hottest show on TV. And I still had hair and was freshly married. Oh, and most of us were using Windows 3.1.
The bloodline has to die out entirely
Without going into detail about exactly how these flaws present themselves — because the explanation is highly technical in nature and you need to be a chip weenie to really grok it — let’s just say that they exploit certain basic functions used by modern microprocessors to optimize performance.
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