Intel is facing at least three class action lawsuits over a recently revealed security flaw. The complaints, published by Gizmodo, were filed in Oregon, California, and Indiana by owners of Intel CPU-based computers. They allege that the vulnerability, which Intel learned about several months ago, makes its chips inherently faulty. Intel has helped provide security patches, but the complaints raise concerns that these patches will hurt computer performance, and aren’t an adequate response to the problem.
Researchers revealed two major CPU bugs, dubbed Spectre and Meltdown, earlier this week. The Meltdown flaw is specific to Intel chips, and it strikes at the heart of how CPUs process information. Security patches offer a workaround, but The Register initially reported that they could slow down PCs by 5 to 30 percent, leading to widespread alarm. Intel has denied this, saying that “any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time.” Since companies are still in the midst of rolling out patches, their practical effects are hard to measure.
Intel isn’t the only chipmaker affected by this week’s revelations: the Spectre flaw is widespread and potentially more difficult to fix, and we don’t know how serious the problem might be in the long term. Google recently announced a patch with a “negligible” impact on performance, echoing Intel’s claims. Intel, meanwhile, says it’s now rendered Intel-based PCs “immune” to both Meltdown and Spectre, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see even more lawsuits filed in the coming weeks — whether against Intel or other manufacturers.