Tech

Intel starts issuing patches for Meltdown, Spectre vulnerabilities

Intel starts issuing patches for Meltdown, Spectre vulnerabilities

Researchers followed Intel's announcement on Wednesday by providing details about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, which hackers could exploit to obtain sensitive data like passwords. The company says that is "has developed and is rapidly issuing updates for all types of Intel-based computer systems", but it is not clear when - or whether - older devices will be treated to patches. Are you anxious about your system's security? The bugs affect all Intel processors issued since 1995.

Researchers from Google, academia and cybersecurity firms discovered two flaws in computer chips that affect almost all modern computers. The company said it believes there "is near zero risk to AMD products at this time".

According to a report from PCWorld, Intel executives confirmed during a conference call on Wednesday that they will roll out patches over the next few weeks to fix the flaw which is now called "side channel analysis exploit".

Most of the immediate fixes will be limited to the Meltdown bug.

Mobile users who thought they were unaffected by the Meltdown flaw affecting Intel chips are suddenly not quite so secure.

Intel and AMD both said that Google told the companies about the threats last summer. Microsoft said that a "majority" of its Azure cloud services used by businesses had already been patched and protected and that it is issuing a Windows security update.

On servers such as those run by Google Cloud Services, Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure for corporate customers, hackers can even steal data from multiple customers.

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Unauthorized access will be hard to detect so cloud-computing providers need to act quickly to protect against these vulnerabilities, said Ryan Kalember, senior vice president of cybersecurity at Proofpoint.

But while the public has known about this security problem just now, the tech companies knew about this for months.

There are limits to what consumers can do now to protect their computers.

That's not to say nothing can be done. This may be applied to protect sensitive binaries (such as operating system or hypervisor implementations) from branch target injection attacks against their indirect branches.

Right now Microsoft has only issued a security fix for Meltdown and there hasn't been any software patch for Spectre! Mozilla says it's also implementing a short-term mitigation that disables some capabilities of its Firefox browser.

The US government's Computer Emergency Response Team initially indicated in a bulletin that only a hardware fix would solve the problem, but then removed that from an update.

Perhaps the silver lining to all of this: US-CERT said it is not aware of any active exploitations at this time.


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