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IBM Releases Spectre, Meltdown Patches for Power Systems

IBM has released firmware and operating system updates to address the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities in the company’s Power Systems servers.

IBM has released firmware and operating system updates to address the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities in the company’s Power Systems servers.

IBM started releasing firmware patches for its POWER processors within a week after the Spectre and Meltdown attack methods were disclosed. Firmware updates were first released for the POWER7+ and POWER8 processors, but customers would have to wait another month for operating system patches.

The company announced late last week the availability of patches for remaining POWER processors, along with updates for its AIX and IBM i operating systems.

Firmware patches are now available for POWER7, POWER7+, POWER8 and POWER9 processors. Earlier versions will not receive updates as they have reached end of service and IBM recommends migrating to a supported generation.

The vulnerabilities that allow Meltdown and Spectre attacks (CVE-2017-5753, CVE-2017-5715 and CVE-2017-5754) have also been patched in IBM i with the release of program temporary fixes (PTFs) for versions 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3. Fixes have also been released for AIX 5.3, 6.1, 7.1 and 7.2, and VIOS 2.2.x.

Both firmware and operating system updates must be installed for efficient protection against Meltdown and Spectre attacks. However, it’s recommended that the firmware patches are applied prior to operating system updates.

The Meltdown and Spectre attacks allow malicious applications to bypass memory isolation mechanisms and access potentially sensitive data. Billions of devices using Intel, AMD, ARM, Qualcomm and IBM processors are affected.

Impacted vendors started releasing software and firmware patches shortly after the methods were disclosed, but both types of fixes caused problems.

A few weeks after it started releasing microcode patches, Intel decided to halt updates due to frequent reboots and unpredictable system behavior. The company now says it has identified the root cause of the problem and started releasing a new round of patches.

Intel and AMD told customers that their future products will include built-in protections for exploits such as Specter and Meltdown.

Related: Fake Meltdown/Spectre Patch Installs Malware

Related: Intel Tests Performance Impact of CPU Patches on Data Centers

Related: Industry Reactions to Meltdown, Spectre Attacks

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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