Almost every computer in the world – and many other electronic devices – have security flaws which leaves them vulnerable to attacks by hackers, the BBC have reported. What are the facts about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities?
Intel, AMD and ARM chip scare: The Facts
Security researchers have discovered gaps in security in computer central processing units – which could allow private data stored in computers and networks to be hacked. No data breaches have so far been reported.
What are the security flaws?
Two separate security flaws have been found: Meltdown and Spectre.
Meltdown affects computers with Intel chips. Spectre has a wider reach as it affects chips made by Intel, ARM and AMD which are widely used in smartphones, tablets and computers.
How big is the problem?
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have said there is no evidence that the vulnerability has been exploited. Major industry players have been aware of the issue for six months – bur everyone involved has signed non-disclosure agreements. They aimed to keep the problem quiet until it had been dealt with. However, now the bugs are known, there is a risk that they may be exploited.
What information is at risk?
The bug could allow a hacker to read information stored in a computer’s memory and therefore steal information such as passwords or credit card details.
How do I protect my computers?
The makers of devices and operating systems will be pushing out security patches to protect your computer, tablet or telephone against the Meltdown vulnerability. You should – as always – install these, and all other, security updates as soon as they become available. Microsoft, Apple and Linux have all announced that patches will be issued.
Apple’s latest version of MacOS, numbered 10.13.2, is safe. Patches for earlier versions of will be made available soon. It is not clear yet whether iPhones and iPads are vulnerable.
Microsoft’s emergency Meltdown patch for Windows 10 was released on 4 January, and it will be applied to Windows 7 and 8 machines soon.
Google Android devices with the latest security updates are safe, and users of their web services like Gmail are also protected. Chromebook users will need to install an update and Chrome web browser users will receive a patch on 23rd January.
Amazon Web Services and Google’s Cloud Platform, have already patched most cloud services, and will be fixing the rest soon.
The Spectre bug is much harder to patch and no fixes have yet been made available.
Digitalquill – Experts in Computer Security
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