Intel’s chief executive officer, Brian Krzanich, sold as much of his company’s shares as possible last month, worth a total of around $24 million. Intel denies that there is any relationship with the Specter and Meltdown leaks in processors published Wednesday night.
Intel had known about the leaks in processors since June and Krzanich planned to sell all the shares he was allowed to sell from October, Business Insider writes. It happens more often that top executives trade in shares of their own company, but Krzanich’s transaction is striking. It is the largest transaction by an Intel employee in recent years, selling 889,000 shares, more than 78 percent of the shares he owns. He must have 250,000 shares as a director, so he was not allowed to sell more than that.
The company denies that the transaction has anything to do with Specter and Meltdown. Intel points out that the share sale took place at the end of December, though it does not comment on information that Krzanich only submitted the plan months after Intel learned of the processor leaks. Moreover, the company does not mention any other reason why the CEO would sell his shares at that moment. Selling shares with insider knowledge of information that could influence the stock price is punishable by law.
Wednesday night, information emerged about Specter and Meltdown, two processor vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to access data in memory. The leaks affect not only processors from Intel, but also processors based on AMD and ARM architectures.
Meltdown affects Intel CPUs as of 1995 and uses the speculative execution optimization technique to read kernel memory on x86 systems. This is possible with the help of processes that run in userspace. That means the attack bypasses memory isolation. Meltdown does not rely on a software leak and therefore works independently of the user’s operating system. The second bug, Specter, is broader than Meltdown and therefore affects a wider range of CPU manufacturers, such as AMD, Intel and ARM. This makes it possible for an application in userland to read the memory of another process.