While Intel has been the overwhelming focus during the fallout surrounding the Meltdown and Spectre processor exploits revealed last week, AMD has managed to, for the most part, fly below the radar. That's largely because, as the chipmaker explained an initial statement, there is a "near zero risk" to its processors. Still, AMD is impacted to some extent by the two exploits under the Spectre banner, and the company has now posted an update to its website detailing its approach to mitigating each variant.
All told, AMD is approaching the problem with a mix of OS patches and microcode updates. In the post, Mark Papermaster, AMD's Chief Technology Officer, explains that Spectre variant 1 (Bounds Check Bypass or Spectre) applies to AMD processors, but it can be mitigated with an OS patch.
Microsoft is distributing patches for the majority of AMD systems now. We are working closely with them to correct an issue that paused the distribution of patches for some older AMD processors (AMD Opteron, Athlon and AMD Turion X2 Ultra families) earlier this week. We expect this issue to be corrected shortly and Microsoft should resume updates for these older processors by next week.
Spectre variant 2 (Branch Target Injection or Spectre), on the other hand, will require a combination of OS patches and microcode updates to address. That said, Papermaster cautions that variant 2 is difficult to exploit due to AMD's processor architecture.
AMD will make optional microcode updates available to our customers and partners for Ryzen and EPYC processors starting this week. We expect to make updates available for our previous generation products over the coming weeks. These software updates will be provided by system providers and OS vendors; please check with your supplier for the latest information on the available option for your configuration and requirements.
Papermaster maintains that AMD processors are not vulnerable to the exploit variant, dubbed Meltdown. And if you have an AMD Radeon GPU, there's also no need to worry. "AMD Radeon GPU architectures do not use speculative execution and thus are not susceptible to these threats," Papermaster explains.
This comes after Intel released a progress report of its own, giving an early look at the potential performance impacts patches will have on its CPUs. Intel expects to have "at least 90 percent of Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years" patched by January 15.
As for AMD, Papermaster says the company will provide further updates on its progress "as needed."