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The 18 Biggest News Stories Of 2018

From microprocessor vulnerabilities to billion-dollar acquisitions, from data privacy scandals to top executive resignations, CRN takes a look at the news stories that captured our attention in 2018.

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1. Spectre and Meltdown Chip Vulnerabilities Disrupt IT industry

When the first reports of the processor vulnerabilities that quickly became known as Spectre and Meltdown surfaced on Jan. 3, Intel called the reports inaccurate, downplaying their severity and – initially – even disputing whether they constituted "flaws."

But Spectre and Meltdown soon became a serious crisis for Intel, other chipmakers like AMD, and for the IT industry as a whole. The side channel analysis vulnerabilities were believed to affect generations of microprocessors used in millions of servers, desktop and laptop computers, mobile phones and other devices.

Within days Intel launched a "comprehensive" threat mitigation plan that included operating system and firmware updates to correct the vulnerabilities. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich began his Jan. 8 keynote at CES 2018 by declaring that "Security is the number one job for Intel."

The rest of the IT industry issued warnings to customers and went into fix-it mode. Almost immediately Apple said Spectre and Meltdown could impact Mac and iOS devices and was developing mitigation technology. Dell conducted performance tests across its entire product portfolio to assess the risk. Cisco investigated dozens of routers, switches and servers to determine the extent of the problem. And major software developers, including Microsoft, Google, Red Hat and Pivotal, rolled out patches and firmware updates: On Jan. 17 Oracle issued 237 security patches to close the vulnerabilities in the vendor's products.

There were stumbles along the way: A bug in a firmware update issued by Intel forced vendors like VMware and to retract faulty patches. But ultimately the fixes were made. Intel has since taken steps to prevent a similar incident, including launching a bug bounty program and creating a new cross-company security group to make product security as high a priority as performance.

Intel continued to develop hardware fixes for Spectre, Meltdown and other vulnerabilities throughout the year. In August it detailed plans for hardware-level protections against the vulnerabilities in its upcoming Core Whiskey Lake client CPUs and Xeon Cascade Lake processors.

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