The first Intel chips with built-in protections against the Meltdown and Spectre threats will start arriving later this year.

The protections involve “silicon-based changes” to the company’s future processors, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a Thursday earnings call.

How these new chips will protect against Meltdown and Spectre isn’t totally clear. Both vulnerabilities deal with performance-enhancing features in the chips that can help speed up a computer’s processes. But because the changes involve silicon-based fixes on the hardware level, the protections will probably go beyond the firmware patches Intel has been rolling out for existing PCs affected by the vulnerabilities.

Krzanich said his company has assigned some of its best minds to work on the problem, which also affects Intel-powered servers. So far, the company has already released firmware fixes for 90 percent of the Intel CPUs introduced in the last five years. But the patching process hasn’t gone smoothly.

For instance, one of Intel’s own fixes is prone to triggering reboots in PCs built with certain chips. As a result, the company has told customers to refrain from installing it.
It hasn’t helped that the fixes can also degrade a PC’s performance. The company has released benchmarks, showing that the slowdown is negligible for systems running the latest chips. However, others like Microsoft say the performance hit is noticeable for machines running older Intel processors.

For more on that, check out PCMag’s tests.

On Thursday, Intel’s CEO said his company has been “working around the clock” to address the vulnerabilities. In the near-term, it’s planning on delivering more patches to protect customers from the potential threat. “While we’ve made progress, I’m acutely aware we have more to do,” he added.

By: Michael Kan
January 25, 2018 9:08PM EST