Intel CEO: We believe we have the right fixes for security exploit

  • Industry blog The Register reported this week that a patch for a serious security flaw in Intel chips could impact their performance.
  • The exploit has since been linked to "many different vendors' processors and operating systems," according to Intel.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said researchers at Google made Intel aware of a widespread security exploit "a while back," and the company is working on fixes that could start next week.

He said he's "relatively confident" that a leaked security issue has not been exploited, and that the industry has been working together for a couple of months to address it. Krzanich spoke to CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Wednesday.

"We've found no instances of anybody actually executing this exploit," he said, adding that the fixes being tested now will prevent future attacks from bad actors.

"I mean, it's very hard — we can't go out and check every system out there," he added. "But when you take a look at the difficulty it is to actually go and execute this exploit — you have to get access to the systems, and then access to the memory and operating system — we're fairly confident, given the checks we've done, that we haven't been able to identify an exploit yet."

Industry blog The Register reported this week that a patch for a serious security flaw in Intel chips could impact their performance.

Krzanich said the entire industry was planning to publish the data security issue once the fix was in place — but the issue leaked early.

"Why did it leak ahead of time? Somebody was doing some updates on a Linux kernel and they improperly posted that this was due to this flaw," Krzanich said. "That's why we're responding to it today."

The chipmaker and enterprise technology company endured a rollercoaster day on the stock market. Shares closed more than 3 percent lower after the company said it was working to fix a security issue that also affected other chip companies.

The exploit has since been linked to "many different vendors' processors and operating systems," according to Intel.

While the security exploit doesn't affect every computing device, Krzanich said that high-level "leading" devices in many different categories could be affected, from smart speakers to phones to PCs, depending on how the device accesses its memory. It could impact public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, but CNBC has not received comment from those companies.

Intel competitor AMD, however, said the flaw poses '"near-zero risk" to its chips. (Before AMD's statement, Krzanich said that while he couldn't speak for "the other guys," Intel worked with AMD, and that the issue is widespread, at least to some degree, among all modern processors.)

"The system is operating exactly as it's supposed to; this is how the system was architected and designed," Krzanich said. But, he said, the company is constantly searching for improvements when it comes to cybersecurity.

"You cannot, with this exploit, make any changes or delete data," he said. "You can't do anything to that data through this process. And so it's not a flaw from that perspective."

Intel is working on software fixes, and also hardware changes going forward. Fixes will start rolling out to manufacturers early next week, Krzanich said, and will be incorporated into manufacturer updates from there.

"This is an example of the industry working well together to police itself," he said.

— CNBC's Jon Fortt contributed to this report.