Intel says it won't patch some older chips against Spectre variant 2

Intel says that it won't issue patches to some older processors impacted by Spectre variant 2 flaw. In an update to its Microcode Update Guidance (via ZDNet), Intel has changed the patch status of several CPU families to "stopped."

The chip lines affected are largely older, and include: Bloomfield and Bloomfield Xeon, Clarksfield, Gulftown, Harpertown Xeon C0 and E0, Jasper Forest, Penryn/QC, SoFIA 3GR, Wolfdale C0 and M0, Wolfdale E0 and R0, Wolfdale Xeon C0 and Xeon E0, Yorkfield, and Yorkfield Xeon.

In its Microcode Update Guidance, Intel says that it has changed the status of the affected chips to "stopped" for a few reasons. From Intel:

After a comprehensive investigation of the microarchitectures and microcode capabilities for these products, Intel has determined to not release microcode updates for these products for one or more reasons including, but not limited to the following:

  • Micro-architectural characteristics that preclude a practical implementation of features mitigating Variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715)
  • Limited Commercially Available System Software support
  • Based on customer inputs, most of these products are implemented as "closed systems" and therefore are expected to have a lower likelihood of exposure to these vulnerabilities.

In a statement to Windows Central, an Intel spokesman said: "We've now completed release of microcode updates for Intel microprocessor products launched in the last 9+ years that required protection against the side-channel vulnerabilities discovered by Google. However, as indicated in our latest microcode revision guidance, we will not be providing updated microcode for a select number of older platforms for several reasons, including limited ecosystem support and customer feedback."

In January, Intel released an initial batch of fixes for some platforms, but later advised against installing them after some users reported that the patches were causing unwanted reboots. In February, the company issued a new set of fixes for a set of platforms.

In March, Intel said that it had shipped microcode updates for 100 percent of its products released in the past five years.. Going forward, Intel says that its upcoming eighth-generation chips will have protections against Meltdown and Spectre built in.

Updated April 4, 2018: Updated with a statement from an Intel spokesperson.