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Hardware bugs

Could all hardware bugs be fixed by software updates?

Length: 3 Minutes

Since few days we are hearing about “Meltdown” and “Spectre” problems (security flaws or vulnerabilities) reported in microprocessor or chip-sets also called as hardware bugs. These chips are a crucial part of computers, laptops, servers and mobile phones. These flaws could allow hackers to steal entire memory contents of the devices.

Definitions of Meltdown and Spectre from Wikipedia.

Meltdown is a hardware vulnerability in Intel microprocessors that allows an unauthorized process access to privileged memory.

Spectre is a hardware vulnerability with implementations of branch prediction that affects modern microprocessors with speculative execution, by allowing malicious processes access to the contents of other programs mapped memory.

Experts has already started analysis the problem to fix these issues. These issues could either be fixed through security patches or making updates to a operating systems or kernels.

However, it has raised few interesting questions.

Could all hardware bugs be fixed by software updates?

What if hardware bugs are unable to fix with software patches or updates?

How to tackle with hardware bugs in future?

How to trust on hardware devices we are using? Mobile phone, Laptops, PC’s, Tablets etc. (Chip set is core of any device ).

Let’s try to find out answers.

Some hardware bugs can be fixed with software updates, however there are few for which software updates are not sufficient. We might need to replace hardware itself.

Till today, we heard about vehicle manufacturing companies recalling their cars for fixing after production defects.

I think soon there will be a day when laptop and mobile manufactures will recall these devices to fix hardware issues.

As such vulnerabilities could cause huge loss to the reputation of an organization. It will also cause financial losses.

Even after software patches applied to fix these issues, other thing we need to look at is the performance of a hardware resulted from software fix.

Form individual’s point it could cause loss to the user sensitive information such as banking passwords, personal information etc. Hackers can misuse your stolen information for their own benefit.

What we can do?

This leads to improving hardware manufacturing and testing standards.

Need to update software programs developed to test hardware devices.

Hardware bugs Vs. Software bugs:

Hardware bugs are more costlier than software bugs, however cost of fix will vary based on below cases:

Case 1:
  • If  we are unable to fix hardware bug using software patch, it might trigger major modifications in software (Note: here software term refers to operating system or kernel).
  • If major modifications made in software does not resolves these problems, we might need to update underlying hardware which might lead to major software update (i.e. Rewriting of kernel program or operating system). This can lead to nightmare as both hardware and software gets changed.
Case 2:
  • If we are able to fix hardware bug using software update then cost of fixing will be lesser as compare to Case 1.
  • This will result in reassessing the parameters of hardware response with respect to software updated.
Should we fix all hardware bugs?

This is absolutely depends on type of hardware bug and how critical it is.

You can also share your thoughts in comment section.

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Swapnil Bhukan

I am an IT Professional, who is expert in Software Testing. Passionate about Automation Testing, persuade ample amount of experience in Investment Banking and E-commerce domain. If you love to know about discussions going on in IT sector, you will feel right at home here. From my posts you will get to know about my point of view and conclusion about the topics I posts.