Intel CEO Comments Indicate Chip Issue May Cause Bigger Slowdown

Updated on
  • Chipmaker’s leader says slowing of computers will vary
  • No information has been illicitly accessed, Krzanich says

Semiconductor Industry Meltdown Exposes Security Vulnerabilities

Intel Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich prefaced his annual celebration of the future of technology with a warning.

Software patches put in place to protect computers against a recently uncovered chip vulnerability will slow down machines, but have so far headed off any illicit efforts to obtain data, Krzanich said at the CES consumer electronics conference in Las Vegas on Monday. While Intel and others have previously downplayed the possible impact of the fixes, indicating that in rare cases computers might be slowed as much as 30 percent, Krzanich’s comments suggest that the problem may be more pervasive.

Brian Krzanich

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

“We believe the performance impact of these updates is highly workload-dependent,” he said. “As a result we expect some workloads may have a larger impact than others. As of now we have not received any information that these exploits have been used to retrieve customer data.”

At CES, the Intel chief usually shows off how Intel chips have a future in new markets ranging from drones to cars. This time, he’s defending products that have long been the key components of most personal computers and internet servers -- the main providers of revenue and profit for the company.

Last week, the world’s biggest chipmakers and software companies, including Intel and Microsoft Corp., announced a vulnerability that leaves computers and smartphones susceptible to potential hacking. Google researchers last year discovered that a feature, present in almost all processors running computers and phones, could give cyberattackers unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Krzanich thanked tech companies and others for ongoing efforts made to protect computers against the new threat. He said that Intel is working with them to lessen the impact of any fixes. He urged consumers to update their computers with new software patches that are being sent out to them.

Read more on how Meltdown and Spectre were discovered

Intel said its chips weren’t the only ones affected and predicted no material impact on its business, while Microsoft, the largest software maker, said it released a security update to protect users. Google, which said the issue affects chips made by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and ARM Holdings, noted that it updated most of its systems and products with protections. Amazon.com Inc., the largest cloud-computing provider, said most of its affected servers have already been secured. Apple Inc. said its devices were potentially open to attack and updated its mobile and desktop operating systems.

Elsewhere in his presentation, Intel’s CEO showed off a self-driving car, part of a promised 100-vehicle test fleet. BMW AG, Nissan Motor Co., and Volkswagen AG will deploy technology from Intel’s Mobileye unit, Krzanich said. That agreement will cover 2 million vehicles, he added.

He announced Intel Studios, a one hundred-camera, 25,000 square-foot facility in Los Angeles that can be used to shoot scenes in three dimensions, letting directors and viewers to choose the perspective from which they look at a movie scene. He showed a typical Western fight scene then switched to the point of view of a horse that ran through a brawl between characters.

Krzanich also touted similar uses of technology that will help make the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea more interactive and the ability to shift the perspective on NFL games to get a better look at the action.

Intel is also partnering with Ferrari NV’s North American unit to provide artificial intelligence-related technology that will be used in an auto-racing series to enhance the experience of online fans.

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