Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Microsoft pauses security patches as AMD customers report problems

Microsoft pauses security patches as AMD customers report problems

There are some reports that users with very old AMD processors are seeing crashes because the Windows kernel is trying to use an instruction that the very earliest 64-bit AMD chips didn't support.

3, security researchers publicly detailed three potential vulnerabilities named "Meltdown" and "Spectre".

With Windows 8 and Windows 7 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), we expect most users to notice a decrease in system performance.

Microsoft's VP of Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie helped move Azure onto Intel
Microsoft's VP of Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie helped move Azure onto Intel

The number of affected AMD processors has not been disclosed, but an AMD spokesperson said the booting errors affect only a small subset of its "older" processors. The update was delivered through Windows Update to a "quite pre-historic" computer, specifically running on the AMD Athlon X2 6000+, which was released a decade ago. Microsoft is working with AMD to resolve the problems and continue issuing updates to AMD PCs soon, and affected owners will need to visit Microsoft's support site for fixes to get machines back into a bootable state.

"It's definitely not any large volume of processors that are out there".

Customers of Microsoft's Azure cloud service are likely to see no noticeable effects from the fixes the company has installed to patch the holes.

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AMD shares have gained almost 20 percent in the last week as investors speculated that the chipmaker could wrest market share from Intel, whose chips were most exposed to the security flaws. Intel has gone to great lengths to stress that Spectre and Meltdown are not "unique to any one architecture or processor implementation".

The software maker also acknowledges that there is still much to be learned as companies like Intel, AMD, Amazon, Google, and Apple all issue updates. But third-party benchmarks that have tested the patch impacts have generally done so without patches to both the silicon microcode as well as the operating system, he wrote.

"Yes, it's a security risk, but it's also at the hardware level", Falcon told CRN. These attacks extend into browsers where malicious JavaScript deployed through a webpage or advertisement could access information (such as a legal document or financial information) across the system in another running software program or browser tab. Most companies with adequate, multi-tier security have less to worry about with this exploit.

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For its part, Microsoft is addressing some of the performance ramifications for installing patches to mitigate the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

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