Intel flaws hint at tech “too big to fail” risk

By Liam Proud, Robert Cyran – Tech groups like Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet are attracting increasing political heat for their dominance of markets like e-commerce, social media and web search.

But a recently discovered security flaw in chips made by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and ARM highlights another important concern: bugs potentially affecting hardware found in the majority of computing devices.

Scale helps justify the massive investment needed to develop improved semiconductor technology and produce chips. Intel last year said it would spend $7 billion on a U.S. factory, and it had already started building the facility years ago. The dominance of a few players also helps ensure compatibility between machines. The downside is that hardware flaws like the newly revealed Meltdown and Spectre affect a huge number of users and could become systemic.

It’s an analogous problem to vulnerabilities in the once-dominant Microsoft Windows operating system – or, in the agricultural world, to a disease affecting widely used crop variety, like the preponderant but under-threat Cavendish banana.a more>

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