Millions of systems affected by security flaws in CPUs

Several security research teams has discovered a critical flaw in CPUs (computer processing unit, basically the brain of the computer) that makes them vulnerable to attack, these hardware bugs have been designated “Meltdown” and “Spectre”

Meltdown and Spectre exploit critical vulnerabilities in modern processors. These hardware bugs allow programs to steal data which is currently processed in the computer.

According to the research teams:

The bug allows an attacker to steal your passwords, your personal photos, emails, instant messages and even business-critical documents.

Meltdown and Spectre work on personal computers, mobile devices, and servers in the cloud. Depending on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, it might be possible to steal data from customers.

Which systems are affected by Meltdown?
All computer systems using Intel processors built after 1995 (with the exception of Itanium and Atom processors) are affected and vulnerable, this includes laptops, desktop computers and servers in the cloud.

Which systems are affected by Spectre?
Almost every system is affected by Spectre, the tests were successful on Intel, AMD and ARM processors. Intel and AMD processors are used on laptops and desktops while ARM processors are used in smartphones and tablets.

Can antivirus software stop or block this attack?
More than likely NO. They way these vulnerabilities operate is below the operating system and do not leave any trace in logs. Users can be affected and get files stolen or copied without a single trace.

Is there a way to fix this?
Special patches have been released to protect against the exploitation of these vulnerabilities for Windows, Linux and OSX and need to be installed properly to take effect. Other systems do not currently have a solution. Please note that there are currently no patches available for Spectre.

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Sources:

Meltdown Research Paper

Spectre Research Paper

CNET – Spectre and Meltdown