It’s not just your processor and operating system that are affected by the Meltdown and Spectre memory vulnerabilities — your graphics card is, too. To that end, NVIDIA has detailed how its GPUs are affected by the speculative execution attacks and has started releasing updated drivers that tackle the issue. All its GeForce, Quadro, NVS, Tesla and GRID chips appear to be safe from Meltdown (aka variant 3 of the attacks), but are definitely susceptible to at least one version of Spectre (variant 1) and “potentially affected” by the other (variant 2). The new software mitigates the first Spectre flaw, but NVIDIA is promising future mitigations as well as eventual updates to address the second.
Most of the updates are available now, although Tesla and GRID users will have to wait until late January.
There’s no mention of whether or not NVIDIA’s fixes will affect performance. Microsoft has warned that some Spectre fixes could bog down older PCs, but those are fixes for CPUs, not GPUs. NVIDIA had already promised updates for its Shield devices.
NVIDIA’s fixes are necessary given the severity of the flaw (an intruder could use speculative execution to swipe sensitive data from protected memory), but they also illustrate just how much of a headache Meltdown and Spectre have become. While they don’t affect absolutely every aspect of computing, they’re pervasive enough that it’s virtually certain you use something which requires an update.