Tech Crunch is reporting that Intel told customers about the Meltdown and Spectre flaws before the public announcement, but they did not tell the U.S. Government about it.
Most of the time, it is the other way around. The U.S. Government knows about a flaw but doesn’t tell the company who can do something about it.
One kind of strange twist to this is that, apparently, they did tell some Chinese customers, who likely did tell the Chinese government about it.
There certainly is no law that requires them to tell the U.S. Government about the flaw, ever. Just like there is no law that requires the U.S. Government to tell Intel about any flaws that it knows about.
Still, it seems odd that they would opt to tell a Chinese company (likely a large OEM, maybe Lenovo?) and not tell Homeland Security.
They claimed that they were unable to tell everyone they planned to tell because the news leaked early.
Just to be clear – they knew about the problem since June. They PLANNED to announce the bug on January 9th, but it was leaked on January 3rd.
This means that even if they did plan to tell the Feds about the “issue”, they didn’t plan to tell them in enough time to do anything about it. Intel declined to say who they did tell about the bug or who they were planning to tell about it.
There is another part to this story, however.
There was a research paper published about this flaw in 1992. That would be 26 years ago for those who are not good at math. There was another paper on the subject around 1995. The NSA is VERY good at reading research and figuring out if they can exploit it. That is what they are supposed to do and even though people like to complain about them, they are pretty damn good. Maybe not perfect, but VERY, VERY good.
SO, an argument could be made, but not proven, that (a) the NSA and maybe other parts of the government knew about this flaw, (b) other governments, friendly and not so friendly knew about it and (c) some of them might have been selectively exploiting it. For possibly, up to 25 years. Even if the various governments who are likely to have known about it (Russia, China, Israel, U.S. and others) denied that they knew about it, would you believe them? After all, lying is part of their business also.
For Intel, this is just more bad news to tarnish their reputation, although it doesn’t seem to be hurting their stock price at the moment.
Still, with AMD about to release their Ryzen Threadripper 2 later this year, which is supposed to be much faster than the new Intel i9 at less than half the price, they don’t really need any more good news.
Who said there was no such thing as bad publicity? That person might want to talk to Intel and see if they agree.
Information for this post came from Tech Crunch.