A recently discovered bug in all Intel CPUs produced in the last decade presents a massive security risk to users. The bug in the CPUs may allow intrusion into a user’s virtual memory. Modern operating systems run everything through virtual memory banks. Accessing and moving information within these banks is governed by systems that keep certain bits of information separated from each other. The recently discovered flaw reveals that these system may not be keeping the information contained in the proper areas. This allows for the possibility that sensitive information may be made available when it should not be.
Researchers and developers already have patched code that fixes this issue. For folks using Linux-based operating systems, the fix has been made available. Initial testing with the new patch indicates that users of heavily virtualized workloads should expect to see substantial performance hits. Currently, any piece of software that makes heavy use of calls into the system kernel—disk reads, network traffic, opening files—will be affected by the patch.
Microsoft is expected to push out its patch this coming Tuesday. Until then, there will be no concrete evidence as to what kind of performance hit that end users will see in day to day use. Some Linux users have posted game benchmark results that show little to no performance impact from the patch, but the data is far from conclusive and should only be used as a rough guide for what to expect on the Windows side of things.
As they swapped over to using Intel CPUs exclusively several years ago, Apple systems are also vulnerable to this flaw. While the company introduced some initial fixes in its December MacOS update, more substantial protections are expected with the MacOS 10.13.3 update.
As it stands now, AMD CPUs are not believed to be affected by this issue. For all you guys who bought the FX-8350 instead of Sandy Bridge, you have finally been proven right 7+ years later!