Intel to Reduce Gen7 Performance Hit With Final Version of Graphics Driver Security Fix

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Intel on Tuesday announced a flaw in its graphics driver affecting GPU generations 3 to 10.  When Phoronix benchmarked the patched driver, devices using Gen7 graphics saw a significant iGPU performance drop. But Intel said that the final version of the patch should eliminate most of that performance loss, the publication reported today.

Intel’s Graphics Flaw

The flaw (CVE-2019-14615) can create an information leak on computer systems using Intel’s integrated GPUs from generations 3 to 10. Core, Xeon and Atom-based processors, such as Celeron and Pentium SKUs from the past 15 years, are affected. A full list of affected CPU models is on the relevant security advisory page

When Intel announced the patch for the flaw, it said that Ivy Bridge, Haswell and Bay Trail processors don’t yet have full mitigations enabled on the Windows platform. The Linux mitigations would be provided for the mainline kernel, it said.

Red Hat, a provider of Linux software and services bought by IBM, considered the flaw significant enough to recommend Linux users to disable the Intel GPU drivers until the full mitigations are available. 

Phoronix previously reported that Gen9 drivers didn’t see any performance loss. 

Current Patch Isn't Ready for Mainline Kernel

The current patchset was reportedly not meant to be merged in the mainline version of the Linux kernel. Intel was focused on fixing the bug first and only paid a small amount of attention to the performance of the driver post-fix.

“This series is in active development and is not intended to be merged to mainline in its current form," Intel said. according to Phoronix. "The intent of the RFC is simply to outline the strategy for the mitigation, as a focus for active discussion, and to openly share progress. There has been only minimal attention paid to performance thus far, as the focus is on robustness. It is not anticipated that there will be any measurable performance impact in the final version.”

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.