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 ThuneSenators grill safety regulator over self-driving cars Tensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (R-S.D.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity 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.