Intel Security Updates Don’t Seem To Have Noticeable Performance Hit


A recent security lapse found with Intel CPUs forced Intel to release a series of updates designed to protect customers from the exploits known as Spectre and Meltdown.

Early reports said the impact from these updates could range anywhere from a five percent hit all the way up to a 30 percent hit. It was also said to affect Intel CPUs going back a decade, meaning a lot of consumers would be a victim of this performance hit.

In an email, Intel acknowledged the updates and said everything that could be done would be done to minimize this performance hit. Apple, Microsoft, Google and Apple all reported their findings with the update and all come to a similar conclusion: little to no noticeable performance hit.

Apple: “Our testing with public benchmarks has shown that the changes in the December 2017 updates resulted in no measurable reduction in the performance of macOS and iOS as measured by the GeekBench 4 benchmark, or in common Web browsing benchmarks such as Speedometer, JetStream, and ARES-6.”

Microsoft“The majority of Azure customers should not see a noticeable performance impact with this update. We’ve worked to optimize the CPU and disk I/O path and are not seeing noticeable performance impact after the fix has been applied.”

Amazon“We have not observed meaningful performance impact for the overwhelming majority of EC2 workloads.”

Google“On most of our workloads, including our cloud infrastructure, we see negligible impact on performance.”

It could probably have been assumed the 30 percent hit was an absolute worst case scenario but Intel’s partners have pretty much confirmed it.

Intel believes the performance impact of these updates is highly workload-dependent and will be mitigated over time.

If you want proof from something that isn’t a software giant, you can check out some user benchmarks here. This is just one Reddit user’s finding so of course this isn’t supposed to be taken as fact. The user took benchmarks from before the update and compared them to benchmarks from after the update and found differences but nothing extreme.

Of course, your mileage may vary on this issue and the security updates could end up plaguing those with older Intel CPUs.

Here is the full statement Intel put out January 3 about the findings:

Intel and other technology companies have been made aware of new security research describing software analysis methods that, when used for malicious purposes, have the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed. Intel believes these exploits do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data.

Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a “bug” or a “flaw” and are unique to Intel products are incorrect. Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits.

Intel is committed to product and customer security and is working closely with many other technology companies, including AMD, ARM Holdings and several operating system vendors, to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively. Intel has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate these exploits. Contrary to some reports, any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time.

Intel is committed to the industry best practice of responsible disclosure of potential security issues, which is why Intel and other vendors had planned to disclose this issue next week when more software and firmware updates will be available. However, Intel is making this statement today because of the current inaccurate media reports.

Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available. Following good security practices that protect against malware in general will also help protect against possible exploitation until updates can be applied.

Intel believes its products are the most secure in the world and that, with the support of its partners, the current solutions to this issue provide the best possible security for its customers.

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