Computer Chip Security Flaw Puts PCs, Phones At Risk

It's a major security flaw but it's worse for people with older iPhones and iPads. It's less bad for folks with newer ones

Intel says it is issuing firmware updates for majority of processor products introduced in the past five years. "Spectre" can affect computers, phones and tablets.

Meltdown and Spectre were identified by researchers at Google's Project Zero security team earlier this week, and could allow hackers access to all files within an affected device.

At the time of this writing, we known that nearly every Intel processor released since 1995 is potentially affected by Meltdown, but it's still unclear if ARM and AMD processors are vulnerable. The researchers said Apple and Microsoft had patches ready for desktop computers affected by Meltdown.

Security issues with Intel Corp microchips are only slowing computers slightly, technology companies said, as researchers played down the need for mass hardware replacements to protect millions of devices from hackers.

A Singapore-based Microsoft spokesman said: "We have not received any information to indicate that these vulnerabilities had been used to attack our customers".

They claim that the vulnerability in the chipset, which Intel learned about several months ago, make its chips inherently faulty. The flaws were first reported by tech publication The Register.

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Intel held a hastily arranged press conference on Wednesday to address the issue, which has caused its stock to fall more than 3%.

AMD and ARM dominate the rest of the computer chip market, although Samsung leads in chip making for mobile devices. AMD has resolved a variant of Spectre via software and operating system updates, while another variant has "a near zero risk of exploitation" on its processors. It said that the impacts are "workload dependent" and "average users" should only see limited or negligible impacts on performance. "This method only works if a certain type of malicious code is already running on a device and could at worst result in small pieces of data being accessed from privileged memory", Hughes said in an email. But no timetable was announced for patching Intel processors greater than five years old, though reports have suggested that up to 15 years of Intel processors may be affected.

Operating systems such as Android, Linux, Windows and OS X have already released security fixes that will stop the attack from the software side of things and it's likely they've already been installed on your devices.

System updates are made available by system manufacturers, operating system providers and others.

Furthermore, these exploits affect virtually everyone and all systems that rely on either AMD or Intel processors. That memory content could contain key strokes, passwords, and other valuable information. We invite you to install this emergency update as soon as possible, though Microsoft explained yesterday that some versions of anti-virus software may block the installation of the patch.

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