Saturday, 22 July, 2017

Hyperthreading flaws found in Intel Skylake and Kaby-Lake based processors

Skylake and Kaby Lake Processors Allegedly Have Broken Hyper-Threading Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs have broken hyper-threading
Heather Davidson | 27 June, 2017, 02:50

Implication: "Due to this erratum, the system may experience unpredictable system behavior". Damage could include software misbehavior and corruption or loss of data, but the worst part is that the fix is to simply to disable Hyperthreading - a key component of the higher performance Intel's Core i7-series chips enjoy over their less expensive i5 counterparts. Although not widely known, Intel actually published the SKZ7/SKW144/SKL150/SKX150/KBL095/KBW095 Intel processor errata addressing this problem.

This advisory is about a processor/microcode defect recently identified on Intel Skylake and Intel Kaby Lake processors with hyper-threading enabled. "This can only happen when both logical processors on the same physical processor are active", Intel's documentation on the errata explained.

It appears the problem is confined to the sixth-generation Skylake and seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors, but it spans from desktop and mobile processors to Xeon models.

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For Debian 8 and 9 users, updated versions of the intel-microcode packages are available in the distro's repositories.

According to the Debian mailing, the bug was triggered by members of the OCaml community, who were able to demonstrate the issue using the OCaml compiler. The flaw is not restricted to affecting Linux users, either: 'Please note that the defect can potentially affect any operating system: It is not restricted to Debian, and it is not restricted to Linux-based systems, ' warned Holschuh.

Until motherboard vendors begin to address the bug with BIOS updates the only way to prevent the possibility of this microcode error is to disable HyperThreading. There is an "intel hyper-threading" patch for Skylake CPUs that fixes the issue but only models 78 and 94 and involves a fair level of technical knowledge to install. But, as HH points out, the "safest course of action is to disable HyperThreading for now". We've sent along the requisite request to Intel for more information and will update accordingly.

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