AMD will release firmware updates for its processors to protect against the devastating Spectre CPU exploits that affect every modern computer, phone, and tablet. Unlike Intel’s flurry of CPU firmware updates, however, they aren’t being treated as critical must-install patches.
When Meltdown and Spectre were uncovered, AMD said that its CPUs aren’t vulnerable to Meltdown, the first Spectre flaw would be resolved via operating system and software updates, and “differences in AMD architecture mean there is a near zero risk of exploitation” of the Spectre second variant. Nevertheless, while AMD CTO Mark Papermaster says “we believe that AMD’s processor architectures make it difficult to exploit Variant 2,” AMD now plans to patch its CPUs against it.
AMD will start releasing “optional microcode updates” (emphasis ours) for Ryzen, Threadripper, and Epyc processors to its partners this week, with firmware updates for older processors coming in the future. Like the Intel firmware updates, you won’t get AMD’s directly from AMD itself. Instead, you’ll need to download them from the maker of your PC, laptop, or motherboard through their support pages.
But you might not want to be so quick to do that. When Microsoft said the Meltdown and Spectre fixes could slow down PCs, it specifically said Spectre’s second variant is the only one that requires a CPU microcode update—and that the fixes for the second Spectre variant are the ones that can affect your PC’s performance. Rushed firmware updates can be finicky too. Intel’s CPU fixes are making some Haswell- and Broadwell-based computers reboot more often, for example.