The Spectre patch for iOS could affect iPhone performance by as much as 40 per cent, according to benchmark testing conducted by Dutch security researcher Melvin Mughal. 

The test results – before and after benchmarks using standard benchmarking tools – indicate that the security patch has a catastrophic impact on Apple’s A8 processor, with single core results experiencing a 41 per cent decrease – from 924 to 1,561.

Multi-core scores are almost as bad, dropping from 1,616 to 2,665, down by 39 per cent. Memory was impacted the least, with performance declining in Mughal’ benchmarks by 14 and 8 per cent for single and multicore respectively.

Last week, Apple rolled out the its iOS 11.2.2 firmware update to mitigate against the risks posed by the Spectre security flaw. But following warnings of a performance hit from patches introduced on other platforms, Mughal was keen to see how it might affect the iPhone. 

Although Mughal performed the benchmarks on an iPhone 6, he said the update would likely have a similar impact on other Apple devices. He performed the benchmarks before and after completing the update.

“The performance benchmarks were performed on an iPhone 6 and are done pretty straight forward. The benchmarks were performed before/after updating iOS in the exact same scenario: no apps running (including background),” he said.

He explained that his handset was running in Dutch and had no battery changes. “So the running benchmark basically had the full CPU capacity and all other iPhone resources to its disposal. The percentages are rounded accordingly,” said Mughal.

Mughal said his handset “took a serious hit in performance at every possible level”, with the benchmark results showing “a significant decrease in performance” up to 50% in most areas.

He added: “Although this is not the best news, this security update is a ‘necessary evil’. It demonstrates a message the security community have reminded us time and time again: security can’t be compromised over performance.”

Some of the worst affected applications on the iPhone will be web surfing, with HTML5 Parse and DOM whacked by 46 per cent and 56 per cent respectively on single core, according to Mughal’s benchmark, and by 46 per cent and 36 per cent respectively on multicore. 

In the wake of the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerability, Apple joined companies, including Microsoft and Canonical, in releasing firmware updates for affected hardware. However, complaints of big performance hits following implementation of the patches have been widespread

 

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