As the public fallout from a 20-year-old design flaw that left Intel processors unprotected continues, the company told employees Monday that it is creating a new group to focus on hardware security and re-assigning some prominent executives to lead that group.
The Oregonian reported Monday afternoon that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, hours away from delivering the opening keynote at CES 2018, sent an internal memo to employees announcing the creation of a new group called Intel Product Assurance and Security. Leslie Culbertson, a longtime Intel employee who is currently head of human resources, will run the new group and Intel executives Josh Walden and Steve Smith will be working for her in this new organization.
Intel learned about the Meltdown and Spectre design flaws last summer, which could allow malicious hackers to read sensitive data from a computer or another application running on a shared server that uses an Intel chip. Meltdown is specific to Intel chips and a fix is available, while Spectre affects almost all modern processors and is far more complicated. Companies have rolled out patches to deal with the issues, but they can cause performance issues in some cases.
Billions have been spent on software security over the last 20 years, spurred by the widespread security vulnerabilities in Windows XP and a wide variety of applications. But hardware security has not received the same focus despite being one of the most fundamental parts of any computer.
The only true fix for Spectre will be to redesign processors in a new fashion as to bypass the vulnerabilities disclosed last week, which one can imagine Intel has already begun doing. Presumably the new group will be tasked with making sure those new processors are as airtight as possible.
An Intel representative, who is likely fighting traffic in Las Vegas ahead of Krzanich’s keynote, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.