Millions of Intel chips hit with major flaw


"Intel and other technology companies have been made aware of new security research describing software analysis methods that, when used for malicious purposes, have the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed". It's not a great time to have Intel inside your machine.

While Meltdown has been found to affect Intel chips, researchers say Spectre could affect most modern processors.

According to one of the report's authors Dr Yuval Yarom, researcher at the University of Adelaide and Data61, the exploits could allow computer programs to access data they should not be allowed to see. "In fact, the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre".

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The risk is especially severe for cloud computing providers, which lease their servers to different clients.

Past couple of days there was this commotion about Spectre and Meltdown vunrabilities in hardware, even Xbox One. This means the most common versions of Intel processors today, the Core series and all their generations, are also vulnerable to hackers. As of now users can�??t do much but update their devices to the latest security patches to mitigate the vulnerabilities. There are already Meltdown patches for Microsoft's Windows, Apple's macOS and Linux.

Unfortunately, the Microsoft fix may result in some performance dips. And the performance generally isn't a problem, he said: "For the real-world's minimal impact". For its part, Intel expects to start releasing its patches next week, company CEO Brian Krzanich said on CNBC Wednesday afternoon. Software-based solutions can act as a stop-gap measure against the threat, but until vendors update their chip designs, Spectre will remain a problem.

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But Intel said in a statement after US stock markets closed on Thursday that the performance impact of the recent security updates should not be significant and would be mitigated over time.

"While on some discrete workloads the performance impact from the software updates may initially be higher, additional post-deployment identification, testing and improvement of the software updates should mitigate that impact".

Intel admitted that their processors contained the flaw but downplayed the affect it could have on users. But the most recent operating system updates for Mac computers, Apple TVs, iPhones and iPads protect users against the Meltdown attack and do not slow down the devices, it added, and Meltdown does not affect the Apple Watch.

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The company originally made a decision to disclose the bug next week, but opted to release a statement on Wednesday to address what it considered to be inaccurate media reports.