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CPUs Vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown

12 January 2018

ARM is the company behind an architecture that has been shipped in more than four billion chips installed in everything from smartphones to factories, and which is inside chips vulnerable to the Spectre flaw. But don't just take our word for it-in case there remains any question, Apple confirmed that its platforms are not immune.

The bugs, known as Meltdown and Spectre, were first revealed by Google and other security researchers on Wednesday.

The Meltdown and Spectre issues take advantage of a modern CPU performance feature called speculative execution, which improves speed by operating on instructions may be used in future. Apple says the only way these two exploitations can get on your device is by downloading "malicious apps" from untrustworthy sites.

Apple says that mitigations against the Meltdown flaw, now known to affect only devices using Intel CPUs, has been quietly deployed in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2. All of these have security tweaks in place to protect users against Meltdown, which for the time being seems to only affect Intel processors. This is of particular importance if you own a Apple device that isn't supported by the latest OS's as Apple has not, and may not, issue fixes for older unsupported devices.

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Update at 10:48 a.m. Pacific: Apple changed its announcement on January 5 to note that Apple Watches are not affected by either Meltdown or Spectre, after saying on January 4 only that Watches were unaffected by Meltdown.

"In the coming days we plan to release mitigations in Safari to help defend against Spectre", said Apple.

Security experts have said highly regulated sectors of industry, such as government offices and public health institutions, are most at risk of compromise as a result of the chip security vulnerability.

Apple loyalists love the company because of the assumed safety net that their iPhones, Ipads, and Macs are "less vulnerable to security issues".

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No Apple product has patches to protect against the Spectre flaws but the company promised updates for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. They are urging Intel to fix the problem and to offer those affected compensation for any losses that have occurred. But these cloud services also use computers with the same types of problem chips.

But while updates should protect most users against one of the vulnerabilities, dubbed Meltdown, the second one, Spectre, is proving trickier to tackle. The "Meltdown" exploit breaks down CPU-level protections and allows a program to access memory that it otherwise would not have access to.

Intel says it has already issued updates for the majority of its processor products released in the last five years.

ARM spokesman Phil Hughes said that patches had already been shared with the companies' partners, which include many smartphone manufacturers.

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CPUs Vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown