Spectre and Meltdown: What you need to know

Alicia Cross
January 7, 2018

Meltdown has now only been proven effective against Intel processors, while the Spectre attack can be leveraged against processors from Intel, AMD and ARM. However, Barclays analysts think Intel shares won't see any downturn. Lawyers filed a lawsuit in San Jose, California, federal court on Wednesday that sought class action status and compensation for people who had bought vulnerable Intel chips or computers that came with them already installed.

On Thursday, Apple confirmed that all Mac systems and iOS devices are affected. 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. The other, Spectre, is harder to fix, but also harder to exploit, making it less of an immediate threat to consumer devices. Researchers say one of the bugs, called Meltdown, affects almost every processor it's made since the mid-1990s. Microsoft and Alphabet Inc's Google both said in statements on their websites that they expect few performance problems for most of their cloud computing customers. The company also downplayed concerns about slowed performance, noting that for the "average computer user" the impact should not be significant and will lessen over time. Microsoft also released a patch and security advisory for Windows, but noted that there is an issue with some "incompatible anti-virus applications" that could leave devices unable to boot and has not pushed the patch to systems with known AV issues.

Apple had a partial fix for the problem and is expected to have an additional update. In the coming days we plan to release mitigations in Safari to help defend against Spectre.

"If you download the latest update from Microsoft, Apple, or Linux, then the problem is fixed for you and you don't have to worry", security researcher Rob Graham said in a blog post Thursday.

The Meltdown attack exploits vulnerability CVE-2017-5754 and Spectre uses CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715.

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"Intel is committed to product and customer security and is working closely with many other technology companies, including AMD, ARM Holdings and several operating system vendors, to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively", the chip maker said yesterday.

Microsoft released a cumulative security update on Wednesday that offers software-level protection against speculative execution, which should roll out automatically to systems running Windows 10.

Intel Corp shares fell almost 2 percent on Thursday as investors anxious about the potential financial liability and reputational hit from recently disclosed security flaws in its widely used microprocessors.

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.

Due to the low-level nature of these bugs, fixing the bugs is non-trivial.

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