The next-generation of Intel processors will feature design changes to offer hardware-level protection against Spectre Variant 2 and 3. That was already communicated earlier this year so Bit Tech wondered if these chips would also get in-silicon protection against the newly discovered Variant 4.
Intel responded that its next-gen CPUs will not have hardware protection against Variant 4:
Intel has confirmed that its in-silicon hardware protection does not extend to Variant 4, and that it will be relying on the microcode mitigation - which, it must be remembered, is disabled by default - on both current-gen and next-gen processors.
'As we shared in our announcement on March 15, those design changes provide protection against Variant 2 and 3,' an Intel spokesperson tells us. 'For Variant 4 – in addition to the browser-based mitigations that are already available -- we’ve added functionality into our microcode called the Speculative Store Bypass Disable (SSBD) bit. This functionality will continue to be utilised on future hardware platforms ensuring customers can stay protected.'
The microcode updates for Spectre Variant 4 have an up to eight percent impact on system performance. It really feels like this is just the beginning of a bigger focus on CPU vulnerabilities, the discovery of Meltdown and Spectre will likely be remembered as the moment the chip industry started to realize that security needs a much bigger focus.