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Google Researchers Say Software Alone Can't Mitigate Spectre Chip Flaws


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Central processing units.

A team of Google researchers says it will be difficult to avoid Spectre-like bugs in the future unless central processing units are dramatically overhauled.

Credit: VGV MEDIA/Stock.adobe.com

It will be difficult to avoid Spectre-like bugs in the future unless central processing units (CPUs) are dramatically overhauled, according to a team of Google researchers.

In addition, they said processors that perform speculative execution always will remain vulnerable to side-channel attacks, despite mitigations that may be discovered in the future.

The researchers found that in order to truly remedy all existing and future Spectre bugs, hardware manufacturers will need to develop new CPU microarchitecture designs.

The team offered several potential solutions, including disabling speculative execution entirely, precision timer mitigation, and branchless matching.

The researchers also noted these mitigations are not without their own issues, such as performance penalties.

"It is now a painful irony that today, defense requires even more complexity with software mitigations, most of which we know to be incomplete," the researchers concluded.

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