Intel continued to undermine the confidence placed in its chips by more than 90 percent of data center customers on Thursday by quietly advising those customers that the fixes it released for massive design flaws were, in fact, flawed.
A report from The Wall Street Journal forced Intel to issue a public statement Thursday evening acknowledging that some customers are seeing problems with the fixes it issued last week in response to the discovery of the Meltdown and Spectre design flaws, which could leave the world’s servers open to a novel type of attack. “We have received reports from a few customers of higher system reboots after applying firmware updates,” Intel’s Navin Shenoy said in a statement released after the WSJ reported that Intel is telling a strategically important segment of customers to avoid installing the patches until further notice.
This is an extremely bad look for Intel. Over the last week, the company has consistently downplayed the impact of the vulnerabilities discovered in its chips by Google and several researchers last year — which lay undetected for an astonishing 20 years — only to grudgingly acknowledge over the course of several days that things aren’t as rosy as it initially wanted people to believe.
And, of course, the decision to only advise certain customers to avoid the patches has huge ramifications. Not only has Intel alienated customers who weren’t privy to the special memo, but customers who avoid the patches increase the risk that they could be breached by the army of malicious hackers that has likely been pouring over the details of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities ever since they were released.
It has become increasingly clear that no one has any real idea of the scope of this unprecedented event, which has required an all-hands-on-deck response from the tech industry to deal with the fact that nearly all the chips in the world were found to be less secure than anyone realized.