Meltdown and Spectre: the 'hidden side' of microprocessors


Institutional Communication Service

9 February 2018

The beginning of 2018 was marked by a series of alarming reports about the vulnerability of microprocessors and personal computers. All the ingredients needed to stir up the media were available: the core issue was unusually located in the microprocessor rather than the software; almost all personal computers, servers and portable devices were affected to some extent; and the bugs had two fancy nicknames, "Meltdown" and "Spectre". It is important to understand the nature of the risk, though the practical implications are probably much less frightening than originally reported. 

USI Faculty of Informatics will welcome Paolo Bonzini for a lecture open to all students, experts, and IT enthusiasts, on February 22, at 5.30PM in room A12, at the USI Lugano campus. Bonzini will introduce the ideas behind the architecture of modern microprocessors, including executions of out-of-order, branch prediction and caching, illustrating how they can be combined to create an attack similar to “Meltdown" and "Spectre”. The guest speaker will also talk about how software can be used to mitigate these problems and envision possible long-term solutions. 

Paolo Bonzini is Senior Software Engineer at Red Hat, and holds at PhD from USI Faculty of Informatics (2009).