Podcast #483 - News from CES: Kaby Lake G, Zen+, and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2018 - 12:05 PM |
Tagged: Zen+, Vega, spectre, podcast, meltdown, Kaby Lake G, Intel, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #483 - 01/18/18

Join us this week for a recap of news from CES 2018! We talk about Intel's Kaby Lake G processor featuring Vega graphics, Zen+ CPUs, the performance impact of Meltdown and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison

Program length: 1:52:54

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:42:20 Thanks to HelloFresh for supporting our podcast. Go to HelloFresh.com and use the code pcper30 to get $30 off your first week of deliveries.
  3. News items of interest:
    1. CES 2018
      1. AMD
      2. ASUS
      3. Lenovo
  4. 1:40:20 Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: GPU Price suck.
  5. Closing/outro
 

MSI motherboards BIOS versions with updated security microcode

Subject: Motherboards | January 17, 2018 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: msi, spectre, meltdown, bios, update, security

MSI have released updated BIOS versions for their Z370 motherboards to protect against Meltdown and Spectre which you can grab here.

z370-20180110-1.jpg

These patches are live now, with new BIOS versions in the works for the renaming series, including all X299, 200, 100-series and X99 series including the various X, H and B sub-series motherboards.  The list is quite impressive, follow that link to see if your board will be getting an update in the near future.  The page lists the version number of the upcoming BIOS you will need, so keep an eye on this page and MSI for the official release.

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Source: MSI

Don't have a meltdown boss; I really do need a new phone

Subject: General Tech | January 17, 2018 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: security, cellphones, spectre, meltdown

The fact that Spectre and Meltdown combined affect 72% of Android and Apple devices on the market offers a compelling reason to request a new work phone.  In many cases the devices being used in large enterprises are old enough that there is no patch coming, the story Slashdot linked to suggests almost 25% of the devices in use will fall into that category.  Since those devices have also missed out on numerous security features which were added in newer operating systems, you should have enough reasons to justify the expenditure.  The next time you are banking or dealing with a service provider in your own personal life you might want to peek at the phone they use and make sure they aren't endangering your own information.

old-cellphone.jpg

"Analysis of more than 100,000 enterprise mobile devices shows that just a tiny percentage of them have been protected against the vulnerabilities -- and some simply may never be protected. Security firm Bridgeway found that just 4 percent of corporate phones and tablets in the UK have been patched against Spectre and Meltdown."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

The Spectre of control system Meltdown

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2018 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: security, spectre, meltdown

The various patches released to ameliorate the damage which can be inflicted to computer systems is slowing down or crashing some systems, up to and including industrial control systems according to The Register.  These issues are not specific to Windows machines, many control systems run on Linux, the vulnerabilities stem from an architectural issue and so any operating system could suffer slowdowns.  Seeing your VMs slow down on Azure or AWS is rather frustrating, slow response from critical systems in a power plant could be much more than just an inconvenience.  The story also has a link to a compiled list of Meltdown patches if you would like to see what is currently in development.

meltdown-spectre-kernel-vulnerability.png

"Rockwell Automation revealed that the same patch had caused issues with Studio 5000, FactoryTalk View SE, and RSLinx Classic (a widely used product in the manufacturing sector). "In fairness [this] may be RPC [Remote Procedure Call] change related," said cybersecurity vulnerability manager Kevin Beaumont."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

About that AV registry key needed for Meltdown and Spectre patches

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2018 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: meltdown, spectre, security, antivirus, patch

If you are curious about the details behind the registry key that your Antivirus program needs to create in order to receive Windows Updates, The Register describes its purpose here.  In essence, modern AV programs regularly access the kernel to look for suspicious activity and become quite upset when they are not allowed to access it after the patch places the kernel in isolation, upset enough to continually crash your computer.  Ensuring your AV software has updated itself to ensure that this does not occur before allowed the Windows patch to install is a good thing, however there is a serious problem with the way Microsoft decided to deal with the situation.  Until that key is present, you will not be able to install any new security patches; something which should be changed ASAP as it could help spread other infections simply because you had the temerity not to use Windows Defender.

windows-defender-scan-100017383-large.jpg

"Microsoft's workaround to protect Windows computers from the Intel processor security flaw dubbed Meltdown has revealed the rootkit-like nature of modern security tools."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Bold move Cotton; Intel promises patches by the end of the week

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2018 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: spectre, security, meltdown, krzanich, Intel

If you were worried about the reports you've heard of Athlon processors crashing after the Windows updates pushed to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown or about the performance hits these may cause certain workloads, consider the poor sysadmin that listened to Intel's keynote speech at CES.   Brian Krzanich has promised patches for 90% of the affected processors by the end of the week, with the remainder by the end of this month.   Such a quick response is wonderful from a security standpoint but one wonders how much stability and compatibility testing could have been done in just a few days.  The acronym for the Intel Product Assurance and Security team may be very appropriate for some companies.  Let us hope it does indeed go smoothly.

20160816-intel-ceo-brian-krzanich-01.jpg

"Krzanich has promised that the firm will patch "90 per cent" of affected processors made in the past five years by the end of this week, adding that the remaining 10 per cent would see fixes by the end of the month."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Gaming in isolation, complete Meltdown or not?

Subject: Processors | January 8, 2018 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: meltdown, security, linux, nvidia

Thanks to a wee tech conference going on, performing a wide gamut of testing of the effect of the Meltdown patch is taking some time.  Al has performed benchmarks focusing on the performance impact the patch has on your storage subsystem, which proved to be very minimal.  Phoronix are continuing their Linux testing, the latest of which focuses on the impact the patch has on NVIDIA GPUs, specifically the GTX 1060 and GTX 1080 Ti.  The performance delta they see falls within measurement error levels; in other words there is no measurable impact after the patch was installed.  For now it seems the most impact this patch has is for scientific applications and hosting providers which use select high I/O workloads and large amounts of virtual machines.  For now the cure to Meltdown is nowhere near as bad as what it protects against for most users ... pity the same cannot be said for Spectre.

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"Earlier this week when news was still emerging on the "Intel CPU bug" now known as Spectre and Meltdown I ran some Radeon gaming tests with the preliminary Linux kernel patches providing Kernel Page Table Isolation (KPTI) support. Contrary to the hysteria, the gaming performance was minimally impacted with those open-source Radeon driver tests while today are some tests using the latest NVIDIA driver paired with a KPTI-enabled kernel."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: Phoronix

Meltdown's Impact on Storage Performance - Really an Issue?

Subject: Storage | January 5, 2018 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: RS4, RS3, patch, meltdown, KB4056892, cpu, 960 EVO, 900P, 850 EVO

While the Meltdown announcements and patches were in full swing, I was busily testing a round of storage devices to evaluate the potential negative impact of the Meltdown patch. Much of the testing we've seen has come in the form of Linux benchmarks, and today we saw a few come out on the Windows side of things. Most of the published data to date shows a ~20% performance hit to small random accesses, but I've noted that the majority of reviewers seem to be focusing on the Samsung 950/960 series SSDs. Sure these are popular devices, but when evaluating changes to a storage subsystem, it's unwise to just stick with a single type of product.

Test conditions were as follows:

  • ASUS Prime Z270-A + 7700K
    • C-States disabled,  no overclock.
    • ASUS MCE disabled, all other clock settings = AUTO.
  • SSDs:
    • Intel Optane 900P 480GB (Intel NVMe driver)
    • Samsung 960 EVO 500GB (Samsung NVMe driver)
    • Samsung 850 EVO 500GB (Intel RST driver)
  • Conditioning:
    • NTFS partition.
    • 16GB test file. Sequential conditioning.
    • Remainder of SSD sequentially filled to capacity.

The first results come from a clean Windows Redstone 3 install compared to a clean Windows 10 Redstone 4 (build 17063), which is a fast ring build including the Meltdown patch:

KASLR-IRQ2.png

The 960 EVO comes in at that same 20% drop seen elsewhere, but check out the 850 EVO's nearly 10% *increase* in performance. The 900P pushes this further, showing an over 15% *increase*. You would figure that a patch that adds latency to API calls would have a noticeable impact on a storage device offering extremely low latencies, but that did not end up being the case in practice.

Since the 960 EVO looked like an outlier here, I also re-tested it using the Microsoft Inbox NVMe driver, as well as by connecting it via the chipset (which uses the Intel RST driver). A similar drop in performance was seen in all configurations.

The second set of results was obtained later, taking our clean RS3 install and updating it to current, which at the time included the Microsoft roll-up 01-2018 package (KB4056892):

KASLR-IRQ2-.png

Note that the results are similar, though Optane did not see as much of a boost here. It is likely that some specific optimizations have been included in RS4 that are more beneficial to lower latency storage devices.

As a final data point, here's what our tests look like with software polling implemented:

KASLR-POLL2.png

The above test results are using an application method that effectively bypasses the typical interrupt requests associated with file transfers. Note that the differences are significantly reduced once IRQs are removed from the picture. Also note that kernel API calls are still taking place here.

Well there you have it. Some gain and some lose. Given that a far lower latency device (900P) sees zero performance hit (actually gaining speed), I suspect that whatever penalty associated with Meltdown could be easily optimized out via updates to the Windows Inbox and Samsung NVMe drivers.

NVIDIA addresses Spectre vulnerabilities

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 5, 2018 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: meltdown, spectre, geforce, quadro, NVS, nvidia, tesla, security

If you were wondering if NVIDIA products are vulnerable to some of the latest security threats, the answer is yes.  Your Shield device or GPU is not vulnerable to CVE-2017-5754, aka Meltdown, however the two variants of Spectre could theoretically be used to infect you. 

  • Variant 1 (CVE-2017-5753): Mitigations are provided with the security update included in this bulletin. NVIDIA expects to work together with its ecosystem partners on future updates to further strengthen mitigations.

  • Variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715): Mitigations are provided with the security update included in this bulletin. NVIDIA expects to work together with its ecosystem partners on future updates to further strengthen mitigations.

  • Variant 3 (CVE-2017-5754): At this time, NVIDIA has no reason to believe that Shield TV/tablet is vulnerable to this variant.

The Android based Shield tablet should be updated to Shield Experience 5.4, which should arrive before the end of the month.  Your Shield TV, should you actually still have a working on will receive Shield Experience 6.3 along the same time frame.

The GPU is a little more complex as there are several product lines and OSes which need to be dealt with.  There should be a new GeForce driver appearing early next week for gaming GPUs, with HPC cards receiving updates on the dates you can see below.

nvidia patch.PNG

There is no reason to expect Radeon and Vega GPUs to suffer from these issues at this time.  Intel could learn a bit from NVIDIA's response, which has been very quick and includes ther older hardware.

Source: NVIDIA

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Meltdown and Spectre keep getting worse

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2018 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Intel, spectre, meltdown, antivirus, security, KB4056892

Microsoft are now pushing out an update to mitigate some of the security issues that Meltdown takes advantage of, but there is a small problem.  KB4056892 may cause your machine to BSoD depending on the anti-virus software you use so it is not recommended you install the update manually.  Windows Update looks for a registry entry on your machine, which indicates your AV software has updated and is compatible with the patch, so far Symantec, F-Secure, Avast, and Windows Defender have all updated.  If you are curious, The Register has posted the key in this story so you can check for yourself if you are ready to update and make the change if not.

It is something you should be doing soon, as this is a serious vulnerability which is only somewhat mitigated by the patch but at least this attack will not be successful.

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"Microsoft has released updates for Windows to block attempts by hackers and malware to exploit the Meltdown vulnerability in Intel x86-64 processors – but you will want to check your antivirus software before applying the fixes."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register