Sadly, not all Chromebooks will get the software updates that would protect them from potential attacks carried out by taking advantage of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Along with the performance hits, the patches can trigger system errors including the Blue Screen of Death in PCs running incompatible antivirus software or a small number AMD chips. In addition, AMD said its AMD Radeon GPU products are not affected by either Meltdown or Spectre vulnerabilities because the architecture does not use speculative execution.
Given the difficulty of solving it, Google's Project Zero security team made a rare exception to its 90-day disclosure policy, which gives vendors and companies 90 days to solve the problem before it releases details of a vulnerability to the public.
It was able to do this "without any performance degradation" or slowdown in services like Gmail, it adds.
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The first approach Google's engineers took was to switch off CPU features that rendered chips vulnerable to intrusion.
The real headache for Google turned out to be Spectre Variant 2. The downside was that it noticeably slowed down performance.
"The bottom line is that continued collaboration will create the fastest and most effective approaches to restoring customer confidence in the security of their data". Along with these patches comes the expectation of performance hits, and yesterday, Intel shared some benchmarks to show relative performance for a handful of recent Core i7 CPUs after its patches for Spectre and Meltdown were applied. By December, Google was done rolling out protections against all three variants of Spectre. As other vendors are still working on patching systems, Google notes Meltdown and Spectre are the most hard fixes its engineers have encountered in a decade.
Fortunately, Google has chose to share the details of Retpoline with the rest of the industry. "Retpoline fully protects against Variant 2 without impacting customer performance on all of our platforms". The firm said that in sharing its research publicly, the solution can be universally deployed to improve the cloud experience industry-wide.