The past two years have been rough on Intel CPUs—and no, I'm not talking about AMD's sudden increase in competitiveness with its Ryzen CPUs, or the repeated delays with Intel's 10nm process. I'm talking about security flaws. In early 2018, Intel and security researchers revealed two exploits, dubbed Meltdown and Spectre, that affect nearly all 'modern' Intel CPUs. And as we warned with Meltdown and Spectre, those were just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Since then, numerous other exploits have been discovered, the latest being the MDS attacks (Microarchitectural Data Sampling, including the most recent RIDL and Fallout attacks) that again affect Intel CPUs going back as far as the first generation Core i7 parts.The good news is that patches and mitigations were largely able to address the problems. The bad news is that there was a loss in performance—sometimes minimal, sometimes not. That didn't stop the lawyers, naturally: over 32 class-action lawsuits were filed against Intel in early 2018, and I'm sure that number has increased in the following months. There's more bad news: we're going to see more 'similar' exploits during the coming years. At this point, it feels inevitable.What's the deal with all these new CPU security vulnerabilities—where do these exploits come from, and how could these sometimes severe vulnerabilities go undiscovered for so long? Not surprisingly, it's a pretty complex topic. Collectively, nearly all of the exploits are classified as side-channel attacks: they don't go after data directly, but use other methods to eventually get what they're after. It goes back to many of the fundamentals of modern CPU designs. Let's just run through some techno-babble for a moment if you'll indulge me.Why it took more than 10 years for many of these flaws to come to light.
Intel is fighting a battle between performance and security | PC Gamer