Intel's processors suffer from major security flaw, Apple's Macs also affected, report

Intel's processors suffer from major security flaw, Apple's Macs also affected, report

Intel's processors suffer from major security flaw, Apple's Macs also affected, report

Security flaws are unwittingly competing to outdo each other. Spectre, like Meltdown, breaks down the barriers between applications, but researchers indicate that "the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre". It's likely they will impact all computer processors on the market and completely eradicating them will take a serious amount of time.

In the same way that two precisely-placed proton torpedoes could blow up the Death Star, so too can Meltdown and Spectre take advantage of a very specific design quirk and get around (or "melt down", hence the name) processors' normal security precautions. Easily ranking alongside Heartbleed, Krack and Shellshock.

Researchers at Google and several universities published the results of the findings, discovered last June, that surface two previously unknown vulnerabilities that could affect almost every modern microprocessor.

According to the researchers who found the bugs, chips dating as far back as 1995 have been affected.

Public cloud providers AWS and Microsoft have scheduled reboots to address the problem over the course of the next few days.

Other companies have been working hard to explain to users how software patches will keep their information safe while they use technology built with these flawed chips.

In a blog post for Google, senior security engineer Matt Linton and Pat Parseghian, a technical program manager, published a laundry list of Google products that needed updating to circumvent the flaw.

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Amazon told customers of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud service that the vulnerability "has existed for more than 20 years in modern processor architectures".

Google: "The issue has been mitigated in many Google products (or wasn't an issue in the first place)".

So, what do the vulnerabilities do?

"This attack allows a program to access the memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system". While Meltdown is being patched presently, and is substantively easier to exploit than Spectre, there is at present no solution to Spectre other than hardware replacement. So, we present to you Meltdown and Spectre. Researchers have described proof-of-concept uses of the vulnerabilities, which means it is possible they could be replicated by someone or a group wanting to exploit the problems.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, there are numerous resources to allow you to fully read up on both Meltdown and Spectre.

If you're an IT administrator you should definitely be hot under the collar.

It has now become clear that chips from AMD and ARM are also affected, albeit to varying degrees.

The industry has been aware of the problem for months and hoped to solve it before details were made public. The update is now only automatically available for Windows 10 users, with Windows 7 and 8 getting the automated update on January 9.

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Implementing software patches to address the security flaw may slow computers by up to 30 percent when performing some functions. Given the reliance on legacy hardware by companies and governments, this could easily be another decade.

To fix this flaw, developers would have to separate the Kernal Memory from the user processor via Kernal Page Table Isolation, and this could result in slowing down the PC. For Chrome Browser users, Site Isolation can be used to mitigate attacks, with additional patches to be delivered in Chrome 64, which is due for release on January 23rd.

Microsoft is issuing a rare out-of-band security update to supported versions of Windows today.

ARM says some of it's high-end Cortex A processors are vulnerable, but that it's Cortex-M products-heavily used in low-power IoT systems-are not.

According to software developer Alex Ionescu, Apple introduced a fix for the CPU flaw in the release of macOS 10.13.2, and there are additional tweaks set to be introduced in macOS 10.13.3, which is now in beta testing.

Linux: The operating system already has a patch.

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