Published: Sun, January 07, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Tech Giants Issue Fixes, Updates For Meltdown And Spectre Flaws

Tech Giants Issue Fixes, Updates For Meltdown And Spectre Flaws

They affect pretty much every processor used over the past two decades and practically every device.

The vulnerabilities could allow a hacker to steal your passwords and other sensitive information. The Meltdown flaw is less serious and can be patched by software that is already being released by numerous major computer operating systems.

Chip makers have been very effective in making enhancements to greatly improve application performance, but the revelation of Spectre and Meltdown makes it clear that more attention needs to be paid to hardware level security.

"This bug is probably worth its name and logo considering the pervasive nature of the vulnerability", Bambenek said in a blog post. Microsoft said users should check with their computer manufacturers for more information.

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Spectre, which is known to impact virtually all modern processors, is a class of microarchitectural attacks that abuse the way processors perform branch prediction through speculative computation to read confidential information from a process.

For now, there's only one thing you can do: Update your devices and browser software when the updates are made available. "What (Intel's cloud customers) are going to say is, 'You wronged us, we hate you, but if we can get a discount, we'll still buy from you, '" Forrest said. And, as Gold notes in a report, it might also be tough for them to access the on-memory data in the first place since "it requires understanding the relationship between data locations which are highly variable and actual data content, and requires a good amount of processing/decoding".

Amazon Web Services (AWS) also said it was made aware of the research around the bug past year, referring to it as a "side-channel analysis of speculative execution on modern computer processors [namely] CVE-2017-5715, CVE-2017-5753, and CVE-2017-5754".

The initial speculation surrounding Meltdown and Spectre began because of the merger of kernel page-table isolation (KPTI) into Linux code which mitigated the threat, and major Linux distros - Red Hat, Debian, Ubintu and SUSE - have confirmed the updates are live for users.

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Intel and AMD both said that Google told the companies about the threats last summer. Researchers, meanwhile, speculate the patches could reduce CPU speeds by up 20 to 30 percent, something that could severely cut into your rendering time or game performance. "We have updated our systems and affected products to protect against this new type of attack", Google announced.

"It was an issue of designing an architecture into the chips that no one foresaw could be exploited effectively", he said.

"Processor slowdowns trickle down from data centers to everyone using the internet", said Bryce Boland, chief technology officer for Asia at cybersecurity firm FireEye. In November, researcher Kevin Finisterre discovered a vulnerability in the products of drone manufacturer DJI and reported the issue to the firm. If you don't install the update or delay it in any way, your machine will remain vulnerable for longer. One of the stranger things about the media coverage of Specter and Meltdown has been its emphasis on the idea that these vulnerabilities are especially unsafe for cloud computing, in which multiple customers' data may be stored on the same servers.

After patching its Linux computers on all its computers, Google observed "negligible impact on performance".

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