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Security

Microsoft disables Spectre patch after bugs reported

The patch addressed a critical design flaw in chips made by Intel that could let hackers access information like passwords.

The Spectre logo -- a sinister looking cartoon ghost holding a stick. Intel's patch for the Spectre flaw is causing its own problems on computers, so Microsoft has released an update that disables it.

Intel's patch for the Spectre flaw is causing its own problems on computers, so Microsoft has released an update that disables it.

Natascha Eibl

What's worse than the chip flaws that leak sensitive information? Apparently, some of the software updates meant to fix them.

Over the weekend, Microsoft released an update that disables a patch to Intel CPUs after reports that the patch -- meant to fix a design flaw known as Spectre -- caused unexpected reboots and other other problems. Intel called a halt to installations of the patch one week ago, but Microsoft's new update goes a step further and disables the patches on any computers that already had them installed.

It's the latest development in the rocky recovery process from the Spectre flaw. Researchers revealed in early January that hundreds of millions of chips made by Intel and AMD or built on Arm designs were designed in a way that could allow hackers to access sensitive information, such as passwords and encryption keys, essential to the security of a computer and its contents. That included the Spectre flaw as well as a similar flaw called Meltdown.

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Since then, some updates to chips made by Intel and AMD were revealed to cause their own problems. What's more, Intel faces concerns that the updates, even if implemented correctly, will slow down computer performance.

Microsoft's new update, released Saturday, comes on the heels of Intel's quarterly financial disclosures. On Friday, Intel wrote in a press release that patches to its chips "may result in adverse performance, reboots, system instability, data loss or corruption, unpredictable system behavior, or the misappropriation of data by third parties."

In its announcement of the disabling update, Microsoft urged users to stay informed about the status of a patch for Spectre. "We understand that Intel is continuing to investigate the potential impact of the current microcode version and encourage customers to review their guidance on an ongoing basis to inform their decisions," Microsoft said.

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