With reports of a serious vulnerability in Intel Corp. (INTC) chips dragging down its stock and boosting those of rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) on Wednesday, Intel issued a statement disputing the reports.
"Intel and other technology companies have been made aware of new security research describing software analysis methods that, when used for malicious purposes, have the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed. Intel believes these exploits do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data," Intel said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Updated from 10:21 a.m. with additional information and comments.
"Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a 'bug' or a 'flaw' and are unique to Intel products are incorrect," the company added. "Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices -- with many different vendors' processors and operating systems -- are susceptible to these exploits." The chip maker said it is working with AMD, ARM Holdings plc and others on an industry wide solution.
Intel's shares recovered slightly after the release of its statement, and were down trading 3.9% to $45.01 in the late afternoon. AMD spiked 6.7% to $11.72 in trading on Wednesday afternoon, and had been up more than 9% earlier in the day.
Intel noted in its statement that it and other partners had been planning to disclose the issue next week when more software and firmware updates would be available, but decided to issue a statement on Wednesday in response to "inaccurate media reports."
Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Kevin Cassidy wrote in a Wednesday report that Intel historically recovers quickly from technical issues with its products.
A report on Wednesday from The Register, a tech website, first noted the issue that exposes so-called kernel memory, which "may contain all sorts of secrets, such as passwords, login keys, files cached from disk, and so on," according to the Register.
The report discussed a fix for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Linux systems but said that the updates would result in a 5% to 30% performance drop, and noted that AMD chips do not have the same vulnerability. In its statement, however, Intel said that the issue wasn't just related to its own chips and that the performance impact of updates would be minimal.
"Intel has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate these exploits," Intel said. "Contrary to some reports, any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time.
According to The Register, the vulnerability requires "a significant redesign" of the kernels in Microsoft and Linux operating systems, as well as updates to Apple Inc. (AAPL) operating systems.
"We need to see what the fix is," Davuluri said. "What is the actual slowdown? Is it for all workloads. Is it for certain applications?"
It would be especially troubling for Intel if it applied to its growing data center chip business. "[The vulnerability] is compounded in the cloud with many, many different computing devices connected to one centralized entity versus an isolated PC," Davuluri added.
Intel's apparent woes are an unexpected boon for AMD. As TheStreet.com reported Tuesday, AMD faces a rocky competitive environment in early 2018 because of new offerings from Intel and Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) . Shares of Nvidia gained about 6% to $211.45 on Wednesday.
Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Kevin Cassidy noted in a Wednesday report that Intel historically recovers quickly from technical issues with its products.
While Intel has gained 28% over the last 52 weeks, AMD is down 3.9%. Meanwhile, Nvidia is up 95% over the period.
If Intel chips are, in fact, slowed by the patch to fix the vulnerability and AMD is unaffected, AMD could gain ground on its rival.
"Intel is typically, to put it bluntly, able to throw money at any sort of competitive edge AMD may have and shore that up," Davuluri said. "Even if in some cycle there is some feature [on which] Intel is not able to compete with AMD, they are able to come out in the next iteration and basically solve that issue and get the performance enhancement or the power consumption metrics or whatever it may be."
Intel did not immediately respond to a query for this story.
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