Published: Fri, January 05, 2018
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

How to protect your PC against the Intel chip flaw

How to protect your PC against the Intel chip flaw

The security flaws, dubbed Meltdown and Spectre, affect nearly all devices running Intel, ARM and AMD processors, according to the researchers who revealed their findings.

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.

There have been no known attacks using the Meltdown or Spectre vulnerabilities as of yet, but now that these flaws have been made public, the odds tick up that hackers will try to exploit them. Meltdown lets hackers bypass the hardware barrier between applications run by users and the computer's memory, potentially letting hackers read a computer's memory. Bearing in mind the number of chips with the flaw, the chances that your computer has a vulnerability are very high.

The flaws were discovered by researchers at Google and academic institutions past year but were kept secret.

Intel on Wednesday confirmed a report stating that its semiconductors contain a vulnerability based around a chip-processing technique called speculative execution.

Researchers said nearly every computing system - desktops, laptops, smartphones, and cloud servers - is affected by the Spectre bug.

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However, there are now no known attacks that have exploited these flaws, according to the Google researchers.

"Apple's statement does not make it clear if these vulnerabilities have been addressed in older versions of iOS and Mac, but for Macs, there were security updates for older versions of macOS released alongside macOS 10.13.2, so it's possible fixes are already available for Sierra and El Capitan".

A PAIR of security vulnerabilities affect virtually all Apple products but are not now affecting users, the company said.

The lead cloud provider, Amazon, also said on Thursday that it did not expect performance to be severely impacted. "Intel has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate these exploits", Intel said in a statement. Fortunately software patches do exist to prevent it from happening. Researchers have warned that they could enable hackers to steal vulnerable information.

If your laptop/desktop/server vendor has provided extra chipset firmware updates, you can get them from their official sites, install them, and complete the patch. Google said its users of Android phones - more than 80 percent of the global market - were protected if they had the latest security updates. There is no evidence malicious hackers have exploited the chip flaws, though researchers said it would be hard for investigators to know for sure. The defect affects the so-called kernel memory on Intel x86 processor chips manufactured over the past decade, The Register reported citing unnamed programmers, allowing users of normal applications to discern the layout or content of protected areas on the chips. "Exploits for these bugs will be added to hacker's standard toolkits", said Guido.

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