The entire PC landscape has been shaken by a new CPU security attack that renders all CPUs vulnerable to data theft. Unfortunately, there is no way to thwart that threat without sacrificing some CPU performance and game framerates.
The new attack was discovered by Google’s Project Zero. The attack abuses CPU data cache timing to be able to the entire memory. This new attack vector can be exploited in many ways on practically all CPUs produced in the last 10 years by Intel, AMD and ARM.
Needless to say, it is impossible to replace all modern CPUs so the industry decided that the best way to handle this threat was through the Operating System Kernel. That is, the core part of the operating system that handles the actual communication between programs and the hardware. Google, Intel, AMD and ARM started working with Operating System makers such as Microsoft and Apple in June 2017 to release security updates that would thwart this threat.
Although the three chip makers insist that the Kernel update will have “negligible” and “insignificant” performance impact, preliminary results do not concur.
According to the benchmarks performed by Reddit user Laexe, the Windows 10 security update resulted in less than 1% performance reduction in general CPU tests, but its impact on gaming frame rate reached as much as 13% reduction. The benchmarks were performed on a Windows 10 machine with Intel Core i5-4690K at 4.4GHz with an 8GB AMD RX 580 video card and 16GB of RAM. It showed 4 to 8 percent reduction in FPS of Rainbow Six: Siege, War Thunder and Counter-Strike: GO. The frame rate of DayZ however dropped by 13% on high quality and by 8.8% on ultra.
Intel and AMD confirmed that the performance impact is highly dependent on the operations being performed by the program, and – sadly – it looks like gamers are getting the short end of the stick this time around.
No true gamer would ever want to get a 5% frame rate penalty, but we have to remind you that the threat is real and there is no other way to keep yourself protected.