New Intel security flaws could slow some chips by almost 20%

New security flaw in Intel chips could affect millions

The group responsible for discovering the flaw and shedding light on it have already been in touch with Intel to get fixes put in place. Embarrassingly, mitigations introduced in Intel's latest Coffee Lake Refresh Core i9 processors are said by the researchers to make the system more vulnerable to Fallout compared with older-generation hardware.

The vulnerability, named Rogue In-Flight Data Load, was discovered a year ago but only just made public to give Intel time to develop an acceptable fix.

The newly-discovered flaw enables a side-channel attack that hackers can exploit.

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A "zombie load" is a high amount of data that the processor can not properly handle, which causes the processor to use elements of its microcode to prevent the whole PC crashing. Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla have all issued their own patches, but some users might have to brace for as much as a 40 percent reduction in performance.

This forces the processor to ask for help from the processor's microcode to prevent a crash. Some relief for Intel is that many of its latest processors in the 8 and 9 gen processors families are safe from the exploits which allow the Zombieload Attack.

Intel chips released this year contain a fix for the bug.

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Its reach isn't even limited to the end-user's computer, according to researchers Michael Schwarz, Moritz Lipp, and Daniel Gruss from Graz University of Technology and Jo Van Bulck from KU Leuven: it "can also be exploited in the cloud".

The colorfully named ZombieLoad attack, for example, would unearth private browsing history and leak information from a computer's application, operating system and virtual machines in the cloud. The company also says some processors shipped in last month have fixed the vulnerability. While some of the vulnerabilities exploited by Spectre and Meltdown affected processors from AMD and Arm, the majority targeted flaws in Intel's processors - and were followed by mitigation patches which sapped performance and outright crashed systems. In brief, the Zombieload Attack allows the stealing of sensitive data and keys while your computer accesses them.

Fixing these flaws is also problematic as it requires patching processors in ways that may slow them down.

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