Tech

Vendors issue Meltdown, Spectre security updates

Vendors issue Meltdown, Spectre security updates

Meltdown and Spectre are what are known as exploits, vulnerabilities or weaknesses, even though they are being reported widely as bugs or flaws on central processing units (CPUs), the computer chips at the heart of every PC or smartphone.

Intel countered in a statement that "any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time".

There has been a great deal of talk about whether the patches that are developed for Meltdown and Spectre will result in a performance hit for users. These exploits have been named "Meltdown" and "Spectre". This is due to it being the more important of the two. "As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time", the researchers said, explaining why they chose to call the flaw Spectre. None of the major tech companies have a complete fix for that. In a statement, the company announced that all its macOS and iOS devices are affected but, mitigations are either already in place or in the final stages of being rolled out.

Google said its Android phones - which make up more than 80% of the global market - were protected if users had the latest security updates.

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Microsoft and Linux were the first out of the gate with patches to protect against the vulnerabilities, which can be exploited through a web browser and allow access to supposedly-protected kernel memory regions - allowing a malicious advert, for example, to steal passwords and other privileged information. An update to Mozilla's Firefox browser, bringing it to 57.0.4 in the stable release and 58beta14 in the pre-release branch, introduce protections against Meltdown and Spectre exploitation through the browser, while Google's Chrome will soon receive the same protections. Legal experts expect cloud service providers to be the leaders in this, with Amazon, Microsoft and Google all having solid reasons to hold Intel to account if it slows their computational capacity.

Apple says that there will also be further updates to tvOS, iOS and macOS as further testing and development is carried out.

Analysis of these techniques revealed that while they are extremely hard to exploit, even by an app running locally on a Mac or iOS device, they can be potentially exploited in JavaScript running in a web browser.

Meltdown does not affect the Apple Watch, it said, as the bug was an issue with Intel processors which are not contained in that device. The reason this flaw is much more complex than the usual software or hardware bugs is that it's more than just a bug that can be fixed with an update.


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