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AMD Stock Continues Surge as Intel Security Woes Heat Up

Shares of Advanced Micro Devices AMD climbed more than 6% in morning trading Wednesday after the company announced that its processors are not affected by a major security bug that has plagued chips made by competitor Intel INTC.

According to a report from The Register, Intel and affected software developers have been scrambling to fix a hardware issue that could let attackers access security keys, passwords, and cached files. The bug is apparently present in nearly every Intel CPU made within the last decade, and upcoming patches will negatively affect hardware performance.

The root of the problem is a fundamental design flaw that is forcing Linux programmers and Microsoft MSFT developers to overhaul Linux and Windows kernels in order to “defang” the bug. In the context of computing, the “kernel” is a core component of the operating system that is tasked with managing the communication between hardware and software.

The patches necessary to fix the bug will move the kernel into an entirely different address space, making the communication process more time consuming and less efficient.

“Really, this shouldn't be needed, but clearly there is a flaw in Intel's silicon that allows kernel access protections to be bypassed in some way,” wrote The Register’s John Leyden and Chris Williams.

Intel has attempted to keep the issue under wraps, but an embargo on the specifics of the problem is reportedly set to be lifted early this month. Microsoft is expected to release a patch next Tuesday, while a Linux patch date is less clear. The Register estimates these patches will result in a 5% to 30% slow down, depending on the task and processor model.

Shares of Intel were down more 2.3% in morning trading hours Wednesday. Meanwhile, AMD shares popped more than 6% to continue a two-day surge that has watched the stock gain nearly 14%.

“AMD processors are not subject to the types of attacks that the kernel page table isolation feature protects against,” AMD engineer Tom Lendacky confirmed.

Interestingly, the news comes just one day after a collaboration between Intel and AMD grabbed headlines. On Tuesday, via a post on Intel India’s website, we learned that Intel’s highly-anticipated upcoming CPU with AMD Radeon graphics, the Intel Core i7-8809G, will feature AMD’s high-end graphics cores, as opposed to the lower grade “Polaris” GPU.

The inclusion of AMD’s high-performance GPU underscores Intel’s intent to make the new processor a reasonable option for serious video gamers, who need top-of-the-line hardware to power e-sports games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at competitive framerates.

AMD’s recent surge follows an almost two-week downturn that coincided with volatility throughout the technology sector. Profit taking and portfolio rebalancing throughout the month of December cooled down some of the hottest tech stocks, but the space has started 2018 on a high note.

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