Intel's Krzanich Covers CPU Flaws, Quantum Computing in CES Keynote

Today’s topics include Intel CEO Brian Krzanich addressing the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws at the Consumer Electronics Show; Microsoft updating its Edge and Internet Explorer 11 browsers in response to those flaws; a former Google employee suing for alleged discrimination against white men; and Intel unveiling its “Tangle Lake” 49-qubit quantum chip at CES.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich used the opening of his Consumer Electronics Show keynote in Las Vegas on Jan. 8 to publicly comment on the recently disclosed Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities that impact the majority of the world's CPUs.

Intel has been busy over the past week making firmware updates available, Krzanich said, adding that "The primary focus of our decisions and our discussions have been to keep our customers' data safe. … As of now, we have not received any information that these exploits have been used to obtain customer data."

Intel’s CEO continued, "To make sure your data remains safe ... apply any updates from your operating system vendor and system manufacturer as soon as they become available." Krzanich said more than 90 percent of Intel processors will have an update available by the end of the week, with the remainder by the end of January.

Microsoft also responded quickly to the Meltdown and Spectre processor flaws, changing how its Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11 browsers process web applications and sites.

On vulnerable systems, Meltdown and Spectre increase the risk of side-channel attacks triggered by malicious web content. Microsoft is mitigating this risk is by removing support for the SharedArrayBuffer JavaScript optimization that was introduced in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

Microsoft is also "reducing the resolution of in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer from 5 microseconds to 20 microseconds,” according to Microsoft Principal Lead Program Manager John Hazen. The method is used to gauge the responsiveness in web applications by precisely measuring time intervals, a requirement of a successful Meltdown and Spectre attack.

James Damore, the former Google engineer who was fired last August for writing a controversial internal memo questioning the company's diversity policies, has sued Google for allegedly discriminating against conservative white males. In a complaint filed Jan. 8 in the Superior Court of California, Santa Clara, Damore accused Google of "systematically" singling out, punishing and terminating employees whose views on diversity, social justice and gender bias differed from the majority view at Google.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of all employees at Google who believe they have been discriminated against by the company because of their "perceived political views" due to their "male gender" and due to their being Caucasian.

Google declined to comment beyond the one-sentence emailed statement: "We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore's lawsuit in court.”

Also during his Jan. 8 CES keynote address, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich discussed emerging technologies that will allow new generations of computers to run highly complex workloads significantly more quickly than modern supercomputers.

He displayed Intel’s latest quantum test chip, the 49-qubit “Tangle Lake” processor, which brings Intel into greater competition with the likes of IBM, Google and Microsoft, all of which are putting large amounts of resources and money into quantum computing initiatives.

Krzanich also spoke about a neuromorphic research chip, code-named “Loihi,” that will be shared with universities and research institutions to use with increasingly complex artificial intelligence workloads. Loihi puts training and inference onto a single chip, which Intel officials say will make machine learning more energy-efficient.