Intel Exec Who Oversaw Spectre-Meltdown Response Retires

'Leslie Culbertson recently retired from Intel after a fantastic 41-year career. Her contributions were many and she will be missed,' Intel says of Culbertson, who led the chipmaker's Product Assurance and Security group that was formed in response to major CPU vulnerabilities disclosed in January 2018.


A longtime Intel executive who oversaw the company's response to Spectre, Meltdown and other processor vulnerabilities has retired.

The Santa Clara, Calif,.-based company confirmed to CRN that Leslie Culbertson, who had been Intel's executive vice president and general manager of product assurance and security, recently stepped down after working at the chipmaker for 41 years.

[Related: Intel CEO Bob Swan: Chip Demand Up Due To Work-From-Home Rush]

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"Leslie Culbertson recently retired from Intel after a fantastic 41-year career," Intel said in a statement. "Her contributions were many and she will be missed."

Taking her place as head of Intel's Product Assurance and Security group is Joshua Walden, a 37-year company veteran who has been working in product security since 2018. Walden — who took the new job in March, according to LinkedIn — is reporting to Chief Engineering Officer Murthy Renduchintala as a part of Intel's Technology, Systems Architecture and Client Group, the company said.

Culbertson had been the head of Intel's Product Assurance and Security group, also known as IPAS, since it was formed in January 2018 in response to the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities that prompted major software and hardware fixes for the company's processors. During that time, Culbertson had been a top company spokesperson on security updates and vulnerability disclosures.

Under Culbertson's leadership, IPAS served as a "mission control," in her own words, for product security matters. When it started in 2018, the organization moved to centralize Intel's top security talent and embed product security experts throughout the company, to ensure that Intel is looking long-term at "the evolving threat landscape and continuously improving product security in the years ahead," Culbertson said in an April 2018 blog post. The group has also worked with academic researchers and security experts in identifying vulnerabilities.

"We expect bad actors will continuously pursue increasingly sophisticated attacks, and it will take all of us – working together – to deliver solutions," she wrote at the time.

Beyond issuing fixes meant to address Spectre, Meltdown and other side-channel vulnerabilities, Intel has expanded broader efforts to improve security of its processors, ranging from an expansion of Intel Software Guard Extensions features to new silicon-level capabilities like Intel Threat Detection.

Culbertson started her career at Intel in 1979 as an accounting manager and worked her way up to serve in numerous leadership positions, overlooking everything from finance to systems manufacturing, according to an archived biography on Intel's website. Prior to her role as head of IPAS, Culbertson was the company's chief human resources officer.

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel distributor, credited Culbertson's leadership for improving the way Intel has communicated on security matters.

"After she came in, they were much better at getting out in front of those things and responding quicker and having more information about what it was and what they were doing," he said.

However, he said, it can still be difficult for the channel to grasp the technical details of how Intel has improved the security of its products.

"It's kind of hidden behind all the other kind of technology changes that are maybe more important and more critical," he said.

Randy Copeland, president of Velocity Micro, a Richmond, Va.-based Intel system builder partner, said the security work done by Intel and rival AMD is often not fully appreciated by the end market. What customers ultimately hope for, he added, is processor vendors get it right.

"So much of what happens is behind the scenes because it's not the kind of thing we want to get into the specifics of," he said. "We just sleep better at night, assuming that AMD and Intel are handling it."