Intel told Chinese companies about chip flaws before letting U.S. government know: report

For Intel, “America First” might not have applied to whom it told first when it discovered the now-infamous chip flaws that have been dubbed Spectre and Meltdown.

The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that “people familiar with the matter” said Intel initially told a small group of customers, including some Chinese technology companies, about the flaws, but didn’t give the U.S. government the same courtesy when the semiconductor giant learned about Spectre and Meltdown situations.

Intel learned about Spectre and Meltdown in June 2017, when a member of Google’s Project Zero security team identified the flaws. The company then planned to make its knowledge of the flaws public on Jan. 9. However, the U.K. website The Register divulged Spectre and Meltdown on Jan. 3, which forced Intel to speed up its timeframe for putting out information about and methods to patch the flaws.

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The Journal said an Intel spokesman refused to identify the companies it told about Spectre and Meltdown before its planned announcement, and the company was unable to tell the U.S. government, or everyone else it intended to, because the news about the flaws got out earlier than Intel expected.

The situation has raised the question of whether the Chinese companies Intel told about Spectre and Meltdown then relayed what they learned to Chinese government officials, and whether those authorities were able to exploit the chipset flaws.

Last week, Intel reported its fourth-quarter results in which the company said that complete patches to fix the Spectre and Meltdown flaws won’t be widely available until the fall.

Photo: The Intel logo is displayed on the exterior of Intel headquarters in Santa Clara in 2011. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Intel told some of its customers, including some Chinese technology companies, about the Spectre and Meltdown flaws before it notified the U.S. government about the matter. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

 

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