AMD’s initial response to the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws made it clear “there is a near zero risk to AMD processors.” That zero risk doesn’t mean zero impact, as we’re starting to discover today. “We have defined additional steps through a combination of processor microcode updates and OS patches that we will make available to AMD customers and partners to further mitigate the threat,” says Mark Papermaster, AMD’s chief technology officer.
AMD is making firmware updates available for Ryzen and EPYC owners this week, and the company is planning to update older processors “over the coming weeks.” Like Intel, these firmware updates will be provided to PC makers, and it will be up to suppliers to ensure customers receive these. AMD isn’t saying whether there will be any performance impacts from applying these firmware updates, nor whether servers using EPYC processors will be greatly impacted or not.
AMD has managed to stay out of the spotlight over Meltdown and Spectre, simply because the company’s processors aren’t vulnerable to Meltdown itself. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Spectre variant 2 is pushing vendors to ready firmware updates, though. Intel aims to cover 90 percent of its processors in the last five years by January 15th, and now AMD is issuing its own firmware updates. We’re still waiting to hear from Apple whether the company needs to issue its own firmware updates for Macs and iOS devices, and the Android situation could be even more complex due to the wide range of handset makers and operating system versions.
AMD is also revealing that its Radeon GPU architecture isn’t impacted by Meltdown or Spectre, simply because those GPUs “do not use speculative execution and thus are not susceptible to these threats.” AMD says it plans to issue further statements as it continues to develop security updates for its processors.