Google discovers 'serious' flaws in Intel and other chips

To exploit the flaw, hackers would have to get malicious software running on a vulnerable microchip, which would allow them to access data from other software on the machine.

Technology companies are working to protect their customers after researchers revealed that major security flaws affecting almost every modern computer processor could allow hackers to steal stored data - including passwords and other sensitive information - on desktops, laptops, mobile phones and cloud networks around the globe.

As you can probably imagine, the tech industry hasn't remained closed-mouthed and has reacted to the news accordingly, with some of the industry's biggest players from different sectors such as cloud providers and device manufacturers, already putting out statements.

Researchers recently discovered these issues and unveiled the two-decade old flaws on Wednesday. The three cases focus on the delay in Intel disclosing the Meltdown and Spectre cyber-flaws, which make it and others firms' chips vulnerable to hackers.

If you use a computer, smartphone, tablet, smart TV or any other computing device, you're nearly definitely affected, and there's no real way to detect if someone's trying to crack into your device, system or cloud account. Google and Microsoft have also issued security patches for their Web browsers, computers and smartphones. But the incident is likely to spur cloud companies to press Intel for lower prices on chips in future talks, said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, which owns shares in Intel. However, it would be hard to determine if a computer has been exploited because there doesn't appear to be records saved in computer log files. "It will not take long for the security flaw to be exploited in the wild". These hardware bugs allow programs to steal data which is now processed on the computer.

Fixes: Available for iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TV. Updates for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS that will further guard against Spectre will be released soon.

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Check "Settings" on your iPhone and iPad and "Updates" in the Mac App Store to make sure your devices are up-to-date. You can find the same feature in chrome://flags on Android, but the fix does not work on iOS.

Google provides a helpful list of its products and services affected by the chip bugs, as well as their mitigation status.

Your best course of action is to update the software on your device immediately.

Revelations that security flaws in chips powering PCs, laptops, servers, phones, and other devices have gone unnoticed for years have whipped bug fixers and security experts into a frenzy this week. Apple says that this update can slow the browser, but by no more than 2.5%. A fix was included in Chrome OS 63 in December, so up-to-date Chromebooks received protection.

Firefox versions 57 and up have also implemented a quick fix by reducing the ability of websites to gain access to the precise timing details that would be required to execute an attack. We continue to develop and test further mitigations within the operating system for the Spectre techniques, and will release them in upcoming updates of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. If you don't have automatic updates turned on, go to Windows Settings to manually update. Microsoft said users should check with their computer manufacturers for more information.

The security patch that Microsoft released yesterday is just for Meltdown, and it also includes some specific fixes for Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11.

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