Intel responds to claims of chips having security flaw

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Meltdown affects computers that use Intel chips, while Spectre affects computers and smartphones built on Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and ARM processors.

Independent security researcher Lukasz Olejnik pointed out that although the bugs are currently hard to execute, now that they are public, malicious parties will develop increasingly effective ways to carry them out.

Researchers at Google's Project Zero and academic institutions including the Graz University of Technology in Austria discovered the problem a year ago and disclosed it Wednesday. Intel and ARM insisted that the issue was not a design flaw, but it will require users to download a patch and update their operating system to fix.

"As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time", the official Meltdown/Spectre FAQ says. Are you anxious about your system's security?

Intel also says the exploits are due to "speculative execution techniques" which are present in almost all modern processors. Still, the Google Project Zero researchers who found the bugs say Spectre-unlike Meltdown-is impossible to fix with an over-the-air update.

Meltdown affects only Intel Corp chips and Spectre affects nearly all computer chips made in the last decade
Meltdown affects only Intel Corp chips and Spectre affects nearly all computer chips made in the last decade

"Intel and its partners have made significant progress in deploying updates as both software patches and firmware updates", the company said in a press release. The researchers said on their website that Intel paid a so-called "bug bounty" to them for disclosing the flaws to Intel but did not state a dollar amount.

Intel's stock fell 3.4 percent on Wednesday to close at $45.26, while AMD gained 5.2 percent to close at $11.55.

Most of the immediate fixes will be limited to the Meltdown bug. Even cell phones and other devices are at risk.

"Meltdown" is the other potential problem and only affects Intel products.

What is worse is that Intel's chips from the past decade, are the ones affected.

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On a conference call with analysts, Intel executives said they do not expect the security issue to have a financial or business impact on the company.

The revelations "attack the foundational modern computer building block capability that enforces protection of the (operating system)", said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer at security firm McAfee.

The flaws, known by the names Spectre and Meltdown, aren't unique to one particular chipmaker or device. Amazon and Microsoft echoed Google's comments, claiming their cloud computing customers won't see reduced speeds. AMD chips are also affected by at least one security flaw. "We have not received any information to indicate that these vulnerabilities had been used to attack our customers", Microsoft said in a statement.

The good news is that a fix is already available to help you get rid of this problem.

There are limits to what consumers can do now to protect their computers.

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AMD will likely try to take advantage of this controversy.

That's not to say nothing can be done. Unfortunately, this involves reducing the overall performance of the operating system.

Google has notified that Android devices on the latest security patch are protected.

On Thursday, Apple said Mac computers and iOS devices are vulnerable to Spectre attacks through code that can run in web browsers.

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