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NVIDIA Updates GPU Drivers to Mitigate CPU Flaws

NVIDIA has released updates for its GPU display drivers and other products in an effort to mitigate the recently disclosed attack methods dubbed Meltdown and Spectre.

Shortly after researchers revealed the existence of the flaws that allow Meltdown and Spectre exploits, which can be leveraged to gain access to sensitive data stored in a device’s memory, NVIDIA announced that its GPU hardware is “immune,” but the company has promised to update its GPU drivers to help mitigate the CPU issues.

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities affect processors from Intel, AMD and ARM. Similar to Qualcomm, some of NVIDIA’s system-on-chip (SoC) products rely on ARM CPUs and the company has promised to develop mitigations.

On Tuesday, NVIDIA informed customers about the availability of GPU display driver updates that include mitigations for one of the Spectre vulnerabilities, specifically CVE-2017-5753. The company is still working on determining if the second Spectre flaw, CVE-2017-5715, affects its GPU drivers. On the other hand, there is no indication that the drivers are impacted by the Meltdown vulnerability (CVE-2017-5754).

NVIDIA has provided display driver updates for the Windows and Linux versions of GeForce, Quadro, and NVS graphics cards. In the case of Tesla GPUs, updates have been provided only for the R384 branch, while an update for R390 is expected to become available during the week of January 22. In the case of the GRID virtual GPU solution, updates should become available by the end of the month.

NVIDIA has also released updates for the Android-based Shield TV media player and Shield Tablet, and the Jetson embedded system, which is built around the Tegra mobile processor. The company says only the Jetson TX2 update includes mitigations for all three CPU vulnerabilities – the other updates include mitigations only for CVE-2017-5753 and in some cases CVE-2017-5715 (i.e. the Spectre flaws).

The mitigations for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are known to introduce performance penalties for certain types of operations, but NVIDIA has not provided any information on this issue.

Intel says regular users should not see any difference after applying the fixes, but Microsoft’s tests show that most Windows 7 and 8 systems will likely incur significant penalties if they use 2015-era or older CPUs.

Tests conducted by Red Hat also showed significant slowdowns for certain types of operations. However, Amazon, Google and Apple said they had not seen any noticeable performance problems – although some AWS customers did report degraded performance.

Related: IBM Starts Patching Spectre, Meltdown Vulnerabilities

Related: Lawsuits Filed Against Intel Over CPU Vulnerabilities

Related: Industry Reactions to Meltdown, Spectre Attacks

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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.