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All you need to know about Specter and Meltdown

Two major flaws Specter and Meltdown that shocked the world. Your data is no longer safe. Understanding these flaws will help you to minimize the impact.

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It was recently that a group of security experts revealed that how the digital brain of the world’s computers known as microprocessor is being affected by two flaws. These flaws known as Meltdown and Specter could potentially enable hackers to steal valuable data from PCs, smartphones, tablets and cloud computing services which are a vital part of our daily lives. Ever since this issue came into lime light, much has been done by the companies to fix them. Unfortunately according to one of the security experts who diagnosed this flaw, one of these issues cannot be solved as it is related to way the processors are built.

Here are the answers to the following question that may arise in your mind.

  What are these flaws?

The flaws namely Meltdown and Spectre have existed ever since the processors were created. It was not until recently that they were discovered. The primary cause for these flaws is related to the way processors are made. Meltdown has affected more than 90 percent of the computer servers and majority of the PCs which has Intel processors installed. Intel is the largest provider of chips used in the processor all around the world. Spectre on the other hand is a bit difficult for the hackers to play on but at the same time it has largely affected the microprocessors.

   Why should we be concerned?

Yes we should be concerned because these flaws enable hackers to steal your valuable and sensitive information like photos, videos, documents and passwords. All they need to do is to install the software on the targeted system which is also running on their machine. This is a very big issue for cloud computing services like Microsoft, Google and Amazon. These services enable the individual or any business to get access to computing power over the internet. By loading software on these cloud service, data can easily be obtained from the server of individuals or businesses who have loaded the same software.

 Will it affect our pcs and phones?

In this regard targeting phones and PCs is a bit difficult as before the exploitation of flaw, a way must be determined to get their software or app onto your device. You can easily be fooled or tricked to download a particular app by the hackers.

 What is being done to fix them?

Well a lot is being done and a lot more needs to be done to fix these issues. Various patches has been introduced which if installed can fix the Meltdown. Both Apple and Microsoft have introduced patches for their operating system, on the other hand Intel is also working on patches required to fix the issue.

 As a consumer what should one do?

As a consumer you should download these fixes and patches that have been designed to minimize the flaw. You should ensure that your software like browsers and antivirus software, are up to date and all available updates are downloaded and installed. Apart from this installing ad blocker is a recommended thing to do as these are full functioning programs that carries malware.

How to update my software?

All operating systems like Mac and Windows can be updated by going to update menu and clicking on windows update to download latest update available. Apps can also be updated by going to settings and then clicking on update.  On the other hand Cloud Computing Services like Amazon, Google and Microsoft had updated their servers by downloading these patches as well.

  Will the updates bring everything back to normal?

Unfortunately no, Meltdown issue might be resolved but as per the experts who diagnosed the issue said that downloading the patch will slow them down by 30 percent which is a big problem for cloud computing systems. Similar test was also carried out on Linux and the result was very much the same. Here the performance impact also depends on the work load. According to the company, average users will not be affected by the reduced performance.

  Can the Spectre flaw be fixed?

As per the researchers which include the experts who discovered these flaws and companies like Google, Intel and Microsoft, no patch can completely fix Spectre but can be useful in certain situations making it a much bigger threat.

According to US department of Homeland Security the only solution to completely remove these flaws lies in full replacement of chips but this solution doesn’t seems to be neither feasible nor applicable since there are many devices and equipment involved. Intel on the other hand says that the issue will be taken care of with software patches and firmware updates without replacing the chips.

Author’s Bio:

Antonia Cummins is a well-known technology editor who has been covering consumer electronics, privacy and security. She has written many articles related to information technology and risks associated with it.

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Page last edited May 11, 2018 History

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