Meltdown & Spectre security flaws - the industry responds

About speculative execution vulnerabilities in ARM-based and Intel CPUs - Apple Support

Apple confirms that Meltdown, Spectre design security flaw impacts all Intel, ARM devices, which means all Mac and iOS devices are affected.

The flaws came to light earlier this week after researchers discovered the security hole which could allow privately stored data in computers and networks to be leaked.

"Intel and other technology companies have been made aware of new security research describing software analysis methods that, when used for malicious purposes, have the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed", the company said. The second, called Spectre, affects chips from Intel, AMD and ARM and lets hackers potentially trick otherwise error-free applications into giving up secret information.

Apple users haven't been spared in the great computer chip debacle. In a blog post, the firm said its Project Zero security team had already fixed the bug after it discovered the CPU vulnerability a year ago. It was called "speculative execution". Microsoft has already rolled out "patches" to protect many PC users.

Researchers first announced the two flaws affecting virtually all computer processors on Wednesday.

Analysis of these techniques revealed that while they are extremely hard to exploit, even by an app running locally on a Mac or iOS device, they can be potentially exploited in JavaScript running in a web browser. Thus, the company will release updates to Safari on iOS and macOS "in the coming days".


The vulnerabilities - which exist at a hardware level - put the onus on system creators such as Apple, Microsoft and Google to release patches at an operating system level to prevent hackers from exploiting the opportunity to steal passwords, credit card numbers and other vital details.

The lead cloud provider, Amazon, also said on Thursday that it did not expect performance to be severely impacted. Gruss said Meltdown was the more serious problem in the short term but could be decisively stopped with software patches. The company also downplayed concerns about slowed performance, noting that for the "average computer user" the impact should not be significant and will lessen over time. ARM spokesman Phil Hughes said that patches had already been shared with the companies' partners, which include many smartphone manufacturers.

It's something no one had realized was an issue for 20-some years.

Google too has issues a statement informing users that its Android phones were protected it users had the latest security updates. Google too has listed out a set of devices and software that need to be updated to the latest version for protection against these bugs.

For starters, make sure your iPhone, iPads, computers and all apps you use are kept up to date to help protect against hackers exploiting the flaws. When the security news site The Register published a story on January 2, it became impossible to wait and Intel and Google went public with the information. "Exploits for these bugs will be added to hacker's standard toolkits", said Guido.

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