Science

Watch the Meltdown CPU exploit in action

Watch the Meltdown CPU exploit in action”

Some fixes, in the form of software updates known as patches, have been introduced or will be available in the next few days, said Intel, which provides chips to about 80% of desktop computers and 90% of laptops worldwide. Gadgets powered by Google's Android operating system number more than 2 billion, the company said past year.

But based on information released so far by tech companies and estimates from chip industry analysts, it looks like at least 3 billion chips in computers, tablets and phones now in use are vulnerable to attack by Spectre, which is the more widespread of the two flaws.

Intel and AMD both said that Google told the companies about the threats last summer.

"Right now it's kind of tricky to take advantage of it", Daly said.

The first reports suggested that a bug affected exclusively chips made by Intel, but it has since emerged that a separate flaw, Spectre, has been found in Intel, ARM and AMD chips.

"In addition to the security considerations raised by this design flaw, performance degradation is expected, which could require more processing power for affected systems to compensate and maintain current baseline performance", FS-ISAC said. "Intel is committed to responsible disclosure". Intel has denied this, saying that "any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time". "There will need to be consideration and balance between fixing the potential security threat vs the performance and other possible impact to systems". "Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available", the company said. In a post on its website, Apple said updates to its operating systems for iPhones (iOS 11.2), Macs (macOS 10.13.2), and Apple TVs (tvOS 11.2) would defend against Meltdown. It will be releasing security patches for users of older Chromebooks, while there will also be a fix for users of the Chrome web browser.

Microsoft said they have not received "any information to indicate that these vulnerabilities had been used to attack our customers", according to a statement to The Verge.

Spectre
NATASCHA EIBL

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.

The second flaw, known as Meltdown, allows hackers to "melt" security boundaries between user applications and the operating system normally enforced by hardware. It said Android phones with the latest security updates were protected, and that Gmail was safe. But AMD also told its customers that "total protection from all possible attacks remains an elusive goal" and encouraged them to regularly update their software.

Intel said in a statement on Wednesday that it believes the flaws "do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data".

On Thursday, Intel's stock closed down 1.8 percent to $44.43 a share.

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

In the original report, researchers said the vulnerability affects "virtually every user of a personal computer".

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. "Most of the software vendors welcome that interaction as long as you see this disclosure in private first, so you have a chance to fix the bugs".



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