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Meltdown and Spectre Fallout: Microsoft Halts Patches and Intel Stock Falls

Brad Moon

Meltdown and Spectre continue to cause turmoil in the PC industry. The recently discovered vulnerabilities pose a risk to virtually every PC currently in use

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)has been forced to halt deployment of patches to PCs with CPUs manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMD) amid reports that the patch is bricking some of those computers.

 Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) says it will have 90% of recent CPUs patched within in a week.  Meanwhile, Intel’s CEO faces a possible SEC investigation over his sale of INTC stock prior to the Meltdown and Spectre news becoming public.

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It’s been a roller coaster week as the computer industry races to deal with the issue. And at the moment, INTC stock is taking the brunt of the punishment over the whole mess.

Intel Speaks to Meltdown and Spectre at CES 2018

AMD and ARM-based processors are also vulnerable to Spectre. But Intel CPUs dating all the way back to 1995 are ground zero for the Meltdown vulnerability. When news of Meltdown and Spectre broke, INTC stock quickly took a 5% hit.

AT CES 2018, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich took to the stage to reassure attendees that his company would issue patches for 90% of its recent CPUs within the week. He did admit, however, that the current fix is slowing down some patched computers. This is becoming a big concern for companies like Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). If not patched, Amazon AWS cloud services are vulnerable to exploits, but when the Meltdown patch is installed, they run into performance issues.

Intel admits the patch does have a performance cost, but Krzanich insists it is workload-dependent — not noticeable for most users, but more evident under heavy load. He said that Intel is working with industry partners to eventually reduce that speed penalty.

Krzanich also reassured the crowd that Intel has not discovered any instances of hackers actually exploiting the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

Microsoft Halts Windows Meltdown and Spectre Patches for AMD Computers

As Intel was busy spreading the word that Meltdown and Spectre were under control, Microsoft was forced to halt distribution of patches to PCs equipped with AMD CPUs. The company has acknowledged that the fix was putting some AMD computers into an “unbootable state.” 


Microsoft and AMD are now working on a resolution.

Timing of Intel CEO’s Sale of INTC Stock is Suspicious

Intel’s problems concerning the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities don’t stop with the chaotic race to patch millions of affected PCs. At the end of November, CEO Bryan Krzanich sold 50% of his Intel stock, reducing his holdings in the company to the minimum level required.

The timing of and number of shares involved in Krzanich’s sale have raised eyebrows.

Intel says the sale was part of a pre-set, automated plan. The volume of shares sold, however, was significantly larger than past transactions. Since the sale took place after Intel knew about Meltdown and Spectre, but before the public was informed, people are asking questions.

Securities lawyers speculate that the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) will investigate Krzanich — which is more bad news for INTC stock.

Even though, as Intel says, there have been no proven exploits of the Meltdown and Spectre discovered, the CPU vulnerabilities continue to cause chaos in the computer industry. The chaos has also spread to mobile phones and tablets.

While many companies are involved in one way or another, including AMD, ARM, Microsoft and Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), it’s Intel that’s in the spotlight and INTC stock that continues to bear the brunt of the impact.

As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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