Published: Fri, January 05, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Apple Releases Mitigations to Meltdown for iOS, macOS, and tvOS

Apple Releases Mitigations to Meltdown for iOS, macOS, and tvOS

The Meltdown and Spectre exploitation techniques abuse speculative execution to access privileged memory-including that of the kernel-from a less-privileged user process such as a malicious app running on a device.

There is now no evidence anyone has abused either of the exploits.

Processors in smartphones and computers are effectively the brains of the device, and queue up possible actions the user may execute in order for it to run as quickly as possible.

Cybersecurity researchers called for computer systems to urgently install updates a day after the release of details of the so-called Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities affecting the chips powering most modern PCs and many mobile devices.

The Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities affect computer chips from Intel, AMD and ARM. In the coming days we plan to release mitigations in Safari to help defend against Spectre.

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"However, the sheer cost and complexity of replacing so much IT infrastructure leaves big tech users with little choice but to continue with their current systems and rely on incomplete fixes being produced by their tech suppliers", the FT wrote.

Google said users of Android smartphones - more than 80 percent of the global market - were protected if they had the latest security updates.

Ben Johnson, cofounder and chief strategist for cybersecurity firm Carbon Black, said the delay in updating customers about whether Apple's devices are at risk could affect Apple's drive to get more business clients to adopt its hardware.

Meltdown was discovered by Google researcher Jann Horn, Werner Haas and Thomas Prescher of Cyberus Technology, Daniel Gruss, Moritz Lipp, Stefan Mangard and Michael Schwarz of Graz University of Technology.

Apple has already released mitigations in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2 to help defend against Meltdown.

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According to the BBC, Meltdown affects laptops, desktop computers and internet servers with Intel chips.

Google said in a blog post on its security blog that it shared a new fix, called Retpoline with its partners which fixes one of the Spectre vulnerabilities (CVE-2017-5715).

That is good advice regardless of whether or not your phone has a flaw in the processor.

However, he said the pros of installing the patches outweigh the cons.

There aren't any processors available at the moment that can replace the vulnerable ones and still provide the same kind of functionality.

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