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Microsoft lends Intel a helping hand by distributing Spectre-mitigating microcode

Over the past couple of months, Intel has been churning out stable microcode fixes to help mitigate Spectre vulnerabilities across its line of processors. Microsoft has announced that it will begin lending a helping hand with distributing the firmware updates, provided that users are running Windows 10.

As of yesterday, Microsoft has begun rolling out Intel’s fixes for systems running Skylake CPUs on Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. More fixes, including those for newer Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake processors as well as older Broadwell and Haswell CPUs will eventually be added to the Windows Update Catelog as they become more widely available.

“Microsoft continues to work diligently with our industry partners to address the Spectre and Meltdown hardware-based vulnerabilities. Our top priority is clear: Help protect the safety and security of our customers’ devices and data,” Microsoft exec John Cable explains in the official announcement.

This is an unusual move for Microsoft, which usually leaves OEMs to carry out their own update schedules. The company has yet to reveal why it has intervened, however, the most likely reason is to speed up the rather slow process on fixing the major security flaw, which has been public since January.

Before delivering the fixes, Microsoft requires the users to update their antivirus software and undergo an antivirus compatibility check. This is to ensure there are no compatibility issues with systems installing the Spectre-mitigating solution, which has been known to happen with past.

Unfortunately, Microsoft is not catering to those that aren’t on Windows 10 version 1709, better known as the Fall Creators Update. This is because version 1709 is “the most secure version of Windows and is fully available for all devices,” according to Cable.

Lastly, Cable notes that “customers should check with their CPU (chipset) and device manufacturers on availability of applicable firmware security updates for their specific device, including Intel’s Microcode Revision Guidance.”

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KitGuru Says: While a rather unprecedented move, Microsoft lending a helping hand is a welcome one, otherwise users run the risk of waiting much longer for what is a crucial fix. It looks like the many avoiding Microsoft’s latest update ought to reconsider.

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