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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of Management & Finance

Bureau of Technology Services

BTS HelpDesk: 503-823-5199

1120 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 1111, Portland, OR 97204

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Intel CPU flaw (Meltdown and Spectre)

By Brian Ventura

On January 3rd, many of our vendors, including Microsoft began talking about issues in the core hardware inside our computers, called the CPU. The issue involves many shortcuts built into the hardware, making our computers faster. These shortcuts allow malicious software to steal any information from our computers. These shortcuts exist in any CPU built within the last 10 years by Intel, AMD, and ARM. Our mobile devices use ARM processors, while our desktop computers use Intel or AMD CPUs. 

The issues were found many months ago and due to the complexity and wide exposure, the affected hardware vendors worked with operating system organizations like Microsoft to write new operating system software (patches) to address these vulnerabilities before letting the community know of the issues. The patches are now available and come with negative performance impacts, slowing our computers down. The slowdown comes from not using the shortcuts that previously provided us faster processing.

BTS is evaluating the impact of these patches to understand the risk and apply patches as quickly as possible.