ARM Says About 5% of Its Chips Have Hack Vulnerability

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  • Microsoft, Google and others have rushed to update machines
  • Philadelphia Semiconductor Index ends five-day winning streak

ARM Holdings Plc., whose technology is at the heart of most major mobile phone components, said about 5 percent of chips made using its designs and intellectual property are vulnerable to the potential hardware hack known as Spectre, revealed by technology companies last week.

ARM’s designs and instruction set are the building blocks of all chips that run smartphones and a host of other devices. Its customers include Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. That 5 percent Spectre exposure estimate is based on the 120 billion chips that have been made using ARM technology since 1991, many of which have long since gone out of use. U.K.-based ARM is owned by SoftBank Group Corp.

Last week, Intel Corp. and other large technology companies said that a feature used to speed up all modern processors makes it possible to gain illicit access to data stored on chips, information that was previously thought to be secure. The two vulnerabilities exposed are known as Spectre and Meltdown. Apple, Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and others have rushed to update machines and have given varying estimates of how much of a slowdown those remedies may cause.

“ARM will address Spectre in future processors, but there will need to be an ongoing discipline in the design of secure systems, which needs to be addressed through both software and hardware,” ARM said in a statement. “In the meantime, we’re encouraging individual users to follow good security practices and reach out to their device-maker to get the latest software updates with Spectre mitigations.”

Any exposure to Meltdown would be even lower, the company said.

While Intel, whose processors dominate in personal computers and servers, said that the issue encompasses microprocessors from a number of companies, some have already broken ranks with that industry-wide message. Competitor Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said the way it designs its newer silicon makes it unlikely that its chips are open to attack.

The fallout over the exposed security flaws has weighed on chip stocks. After rising 6.6 percent over a five-day winning streak to start the year, the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index fell 1 percent Tuesday. AMD tumbled 3.8 percent after Microsoft said it temporarily halted some patches to AMD chips and Intel slid 2.5 percent after Microsoft said a chip-flaw fix may significantly slow some servers.

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