Senate panel announces hearing on computer chip flaws

Senate panel announces hearing on computer chip flaws
© Greg Nash

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing later this month to examine two critical vulnerabilities affecting computer processing chips unveiled earlier this year. 

The committee announced Friday that it would assess the “lessons learned” from the Spectre and Meltdown chip vulnerabilities next Wednesday.

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The chip flaws, which provide an avenue for hackers to steal sensitive data from most modern computing devices, were revealed in January by security researchers who had spent months investigating them. They impact a wide array of modern computer processing chips, including those manufactured by Intel, AMD, Google and Microsoft.

The vulnerabilities were revealed before companies could issue patches for the impacted systems, sending companies scrambling to offer fixes to prevent hackers from leveraging the vulnerabilities in attacks.

Following the revelations, Commerce Committee leaders Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk MORE (R-S.D.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Senate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference MORE (D-Fla.) wrote to executives at Amazon, Apple, Intel and other tech companies inquiring about their efforts to patch the vulnerabilities and mitigate the threat.   

The hearing next week will examine “cybersecurity issues raised in response to the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, such as challenges with conducting complex coordinated vulnerability disclosure and supply chain cybersecurity, and how best to coordinate cybersecurity efforts going forward,” the committee said. 

Lawmakers have called on an official at the National Institute of Standards and Technology — a nonregulatory laboratory at the Commerce Department — to testify, as well as academic security experts. They will also hear from the chief marketing officer at ARM, a microprocessor supplier.