Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Apple Says Spectre, Meltdown Don't Hurt Device Performance, But Vulnerable

Tech Titans Downplay Meltdown And Spectre Patches' Performance Hits Apple confirms iPhone, Mac affected by Meltdown-Spectre vulnerabilities
Frank Williams | 12 January, 2018, 18:10

That memory content could contain key strokes, passwords, and other valuable information.

If you haven't already, you'll want to take action to protect your devices.

"Meltdown" and "Spectre" issues take advantage of a modern CPU performance feature called "speculative execution". "In fact, the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre", the researchers wrote. Experts say the disclosure of the critical flaws underscores the need to keep up with software updates and security patches and highlights the role independent research plays in prodding tech companies to minimize security weaknesses.

As for Apple, it admitted that all iPhones, iPads and Mac computers worldwide are vulnerable to the processor security flaws, but the Cupertino giant stressed that no customers have been yet targeted by exploits. However, it would be hard to determine if a computer has been exploited because there doesn't appear to be records saved in computer log files. But the exploits also affect ARM processors, powering the vast majority of smartphones on the market. However, Intel released a statement late Thursday saying the recent security updates should not impact performance significantly and the effects will be mitigated over time.

"We continue to develop and test further mitigations for these issues and will release them in upcoming updates of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS", Apple added.

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Meltdown and Spectre bugs are affecting nearly all Intel, AMD and ARM-based devices like Windows PC, tablets and smartphones. Luckily, most OS makers were already made aware of the flaw and have patches available or in the works.

Chromebook owners running Chrome OS 63, released December 15, are protected against the flaw. However, Google has a list of computers that won't receive the update because they are older models. The latest versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Edge address these vulnerabilities, and new versions of Chrome and Safari are coming soon.

But while updates should protect most users against one of the vulnerabilities, dubbed Meltdown, the second one, Spectre, is proving trickier to tackle.

To download Microsoft's patch on your own, you have to manually set the Windows registry key on your computer. Next, you'll want to update your anti-virus software and be sure you're running the latest version of your web browser, both which can keep you safe from dangerous files that might use these exploits. 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. Microsoft said users should check with their computer manufacturers for more information.

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