Massive security flaw detected in recent generations of CPUs

Massive security flaw detected in recent generations of CPUs

It has been discovered that a performance feature called speculative execution present on almost all modern computing system to optimise performance.

Technology companies are scrambling to fix serious security flaws affecting computer processors built by Intel and other chipmakers and found in numerous world's personal computers and smartphones. AMD chips are also common in PCs, while ARM chips are found in many smartphones and other internet-connected products, including cars and home appliances. Apple has admitted this for its iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.

In an online Q&A accompanying their findings, researchers noted that nearly everyone is "most certainly" affected by either Meltdown or Spectre, and there is no way to discover whether those flaws have been exploited by a hacker.

While both vulnerabilities can be tackled through software patches, the fix for Meltdown is more effective than the one for Spectre, according to security professional Daniel Miessler. Microsoft has also released a statement saying they have now introduced an update which will act as the said solution for the security flaw, but this might have a performance impact, which can be as big as a 30 percent slowdown.

Needless to say, it is impossible to replace all modern CPUs so the industry decided that the best way to handle this threat was through the Operating System Kernel. It is focusing primarily on products released in the past five years, for the time being. The exploits, Meltdown and Spectre, allow malicious programs to steal data being processed by the computer. The latter is, however, a harder exploit for hackers to carry out.

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Indeed, as Microsoft and Google have already released fixes for preventing hackers from exploiting these flaws on devices running their software.

GBH Insights Chief Strategy Analyst Daniel Ives says Krzanich's stock sale was "cookie cutter" and not a concern.

Consumers should check with their device maker and operating system provider for security updates and install them as soon as possible. Within, Intel states that its next batch of security updates to its processors will grant them immunity to the exploits. The stock dump, which netted him around $25 million, was part of a premeditated stock trading plan that many executives use to manage their holdings, but this plan was only put into place on October 30, according to CNBC.

Windows 10 users have already received the update KB4056892 earlier this month, while Windows 7 and Windows 8 users will be getting the update next Tuesday.

Microsoft Azure is due to undergo a maintenance reboot on 10 January while Amazon Web Services has also advised customers via email to expect a major security update this Friday. Firefox users will need to be on version Firefox 57.0.4 to be protected against any attack.

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