Intel’s CEO cashed in $24 million (£18 million) worth of stock in the company, months after it was informed of a massive ‘design flaw’ in its chips.
Brian Krzanich took the decision to divest the maximum stake in the firm possible just four months after Intel found out about the security bug.
The issues, known as Metldown and Spectre, could affect billions of gadgets worldwide that are powered by the company’s CPUs.
They only came to public attention in recent days but, according to reports, the microprocessor manufacturer was informed in June last year.
The sale drew attention when it was originally announced, as it left Krzanich with just 250,000 stock in his firm, the minimum required by the terms of his employment.
The timing is likely to raise even more eyebrows after revelations in recent days about the scale of the problems facing Intel, as well as how much the CEO knew when the sale went through.
Intel says the sale was planned in advance as part of a standard deal and has no connection to the recently disclosed chip flaw, which affects processors built over the past decade.
In a statement to Business Insider UK, a representative for Intel said: ‘Brian’s sale is unrelated.
‘He continues to hold shares in-line with corporate guidelines.’
Executives at high powered firms often have plans in place to automatically sell part of their stocks or shares, precisely to avoid charges of trading on insider knowledge.
Krzanich sold 245,743 shares of stock he owned outright, as well as a further 644,135 shares that were part of rights specified in his contract, under such an arrangement.
But, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, this plan was only put in place on October 30.
This is well after Intel learned of the problems with its x86-64 range of chips, which Business Insider UK reports happened in June.
Security researchers at Google’s Project Zero computer security analysis team, in conjunction with academic and industry researchers from several countries, discovered the two flaws.
Meltdown and Spectre could let cyber criminals steal passwords and other data from nearly every gadget containing chips from Intel, AMD and Arm, thanks to ‘design flaws’ in their manufacture.
The bugs affect desktops, laptops, servers, smartphones and tablets, as well as smart devices like baby monitors powered by processors from these firms.
Patches have been created by a number of device manufacturers to try and plug the huge security holes, but fixing the underlying issue will be extremely difficult.
In an interview with CNBC yesterday, Krzanich said: ‘We’ve found no instances of anybody actually executing this exploit.
‘Phones, PCs, everything are going to have some impact, but it´ll vary from product to product.’
However, clips on social media claim to show computer security experts using the exploit.
Michael Schwarz, who has a PhD in information security, posted on Twitter ‘Using #Meltdown to steal passwords in real time’, along with a GIF animation of the procedure.
Researchers say Apple and Microsoft have patches ready for users for desktop computers affected by Meltdown.
Daniel Gruss, one of the researchers at Graz University of Technology who discovered Meltdown, called it ‘probably one of the worst CPU bugs ever found’ in an interview with Reuters.
Gruss said Meltdown was the more serious problem in the short term but could be decisively stopped with software patches.
Spectre, the broader bug that applies to nearly all computing devices, is harder for hackers to take advantage of but less easily patched and will be a bigger problem in the long term, he said.