ibusinesslines.com September 24, 2018

How to guard against chip flaws

12 January 2018, 06:08 | Justin Tyler

How to guard against chip flaws

Meltdown and Spectre

Companies like Apple and Microsoft are rolling out fixes to protect against Spectre and Meltdown, two major flaws found in most computer chips that affect processors.

Technology companies are scrambling to fix serious security flaws affecting computer processors built by Intel and other chipmakers and found in numerous world's personal computers and smartphones.

Meltdown and Spectre, the recently revealed security flaws which affect microprocessors in "virtually all" modern computers, can conceivably allow hackers to "steal the entire memory contents" of those computers.

While security flaws are typically limited to a specific company or product, Intel says the problem is "not a bug or a flaw in Intel products" but rather a broader problem affecting processing techniques common to modern computing platforms. Meanwhile, Apple has said that all iOS and Mac systems are vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre, and that it has already released "mitigations" in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2 to help defend against Meltdown. "In this case, the security researchers presented their findings in confidence, and we and other companies worked together to verify their results, develop and validate firmware and operating system updates for impacted technologies, and make them widely available as rapidly as possible", the company said in a blog post Wednesday.

While the Spectre flaw is more hard to protect against, Apple says it will be updating its Safari browser to protect users from particular exploit techniques on macOS and iOS. tvOS and watchOS will receive updates as Apple tests methods to protect its products from the Spectre security flaw.

Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants have released updates for the flaws.

Intel headquarters

Independent software developers also ran tests on a patched version of Linux, the open-source operating system that now drives more than 30% of the world's servers, and saw similar slowdowns. The vulnerabilities will enable attackers to access sensitive information stored on computers. These flaws, called Meltdown and Spectre, could allow hackers to access data from smartphones, PCs and cloud computing services.

Patches against Spectre, in the form of an update to web browser Safari, will be released "in the coming days". And yes, if you are entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, you too are affected by all this.

The focus seems to be on Intel for the most part obviously, being the biggest loser in the whole situation.

But not all antivirus products have been able to do this yet, which means many Windows users likely will not be able to download this patch immediately. Next, you'll want to update your anti-virus software and be sure you're running the latest version of your web browser, both which can keep you safe from dangerous files that might use these exploits. Unlike Meltdown, the Spectre malware affects all devices. Combined they affect virtually every modern computer, including smartphones, tablets and PCs from all vendors and running nearly any operating system.

The vulnerabilities were discovered by security researchers previous year and disclosed to companies including Apple and Microsoft, with plans to disclose to the public later.

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