During their recent earnings call, AMD CEO Lisa Su made it pretty clear that they are working to mitigate the Spectre 1 and 2 exploit issues, which are the ones AMD chips are susceptible to. Not only this, but she also promised in-silicon changes to absolutely eliminate the potential security threat in their future Zen 2 CPUs.
Lisa Su announces Silicon Spectre fixes for Next-Gen Zen 2 CPUs
The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities surfaced in late 2017, affecting almost every modern x86 processor. Intel CPUs which make the bulk of desktop computers were affected by both exploits.
The company addressed the issues through updates and patches, but they resulted in a performance hit as high as up to 30% in some cases. Intel recently stated that they will release in-silicon fixes for the vulnerabilities in their new processors that will hit the shelves later this year.
AMD CPUs, on the other hand, are not vulnerable to Meltdown, but only Spectre. Su said they are actively working with their system partners to release OS patches to mitigate the Spectre variant 1.
As for the variant 2, AMD do still believe that it is difficult to exploit on their processors, but they will release patches to mitigate the threat as much as possible.
They also confirmed that the next generation Zen 2 CPUs, built using the 7nm process node, will include architectural changes to address these vulnerabilities. Here is what Su had to say during their Q4 2017 earnings call:
“We continue to believe that Variant 2 of Spectre is difficult to exploit on AMD processors. However, we are deploying CPU microcode patches that in combination with OS updates provide additional mitigation steps. Longer term, we have included changes in our future processor cores, starting with our Zen 2 design, to further address potential Spectre like exploits. We continue to collaborate closely with the industry on these vulnerabilities and are committed to protecting AMD users from these and other security threats as they arise.”
Now that’s more of a good-ish news. Based on the statement from Su, it can be assumed that the 12nm Zen+ is too far along in the pipeline to make any major changes to the core architecture.
It would make the perfect sense but seeing how Intel has already assured the release of their new Meltdown and Spectre-proof CPUs in late 2018, it could hurt some sales for AMD.
With that said, team red is pretty confident that their CPUs are already not that susceptible, and with the microcode patches on the way, it should further mitigate the security risk, hopefully making it a non-issue. As usual though, only time will tell how things will turn out.