Be Informed And Earn: Processors Flaw Puts Your PCs, Phones at Risk, Here is How to Protect Yourself From Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws

Friday, January 5, 2018

Processors Flaw Puts Your PCs, Phones at Risk, Here is How to Protect Yourself From Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws

Security researchers say a common processor design used by Intel and mobile chip tech designer, ARM, may leave the door open to exposing sensitive system data. A newly discovered exploit in most modern processors could make your computer or phone vulnerable to attacks. But chipmakers say they've got fixes ready to go. Researchers believe that affected PC are the ones made in the last 2 decades.
Processors Flaw Puts Your PCs, Phones at Risk,

The call it Meltdown and Spectre flaws, and fortunately, Intel, AMD, and ARM believe they can mitigate or even fix it with software patches, while giant tech companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google have already released some of those patches.

The Meltdown and Spectre flaws as they call it is a newly identified flaw as it was revealed affects modern processors and practically every Intel computer released in the last two decades, the AMD and Arm chips in your laptops, tablets, and phones. This flaw could let hackers access passwords, encryption keys or any other sensitive information open in applications. 

Security researchers also made it known that this flaw isn't peculiar to Intel and AMD processors as many speculated, instead, they impact everything from phones to PCs and servers. "It's not really one vendor's problem," Steve Smith, head of Intel's data center engineering operations, said during a conference call Wednesday. "It's not an issue with our product. It's not an issue with someone else's product." It's a general design issue that impacts most modern chips, he explains. 

Here is How to Protect Yourself From Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws

There are already being several updates released by tech companies like Google and Apple on how to stay protected from the flaws. In some devices, the update is downloaded and updated automatically while in some, you will have to do them yourself, but as usual, you'll need to be diligent about this. So here's everything we know as of Jan. 5, 2018  about how to protect yourself from Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws

#1.   For Android Phones:

Google in their support page made it known that a new security update (dated Jan. 5) will be released and will include "mitigations" to help protect your phone, and future updates will include more such fixes.

Branded phones such as Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P will receive the update and download the update automatically, but users will have to install them manually, the same goes for other Android phones with different manufacturers.  While this same whole operation will be done automatically in Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL which is really not surprising 

#2.   For iPhones and iPads (and iPod touch)

iPhones and iPad that are already running on the latest iOS version 11.2 should already be protected from some of these vulnerabilities that researchers discovered recently. Apple says that version which was released on the 2nd of Dec. 2017 includes a number of mitigations, and Apple's promising to develop more protections in future updates.

Also Read:   6 Ways to Speed up iOS 11 in Older iPhones

To check, go to Settings >>> General >>> About and look for Version to verify you're on 11.2 or later. If not, you can probably go to Settings >>> General >>> Software Update to download the latest version. Patches don't measurably affect performance, and it'll continue to develop more mitigations for future updates - Apple says.

#3.   Windows PC

Windows 10 users will be most protected Windows users, especially if you followed Microsoft's guide on how to create a secured Windows PC. The update will be automatically downloaded and installed on Windows 10 PCs and is dependent on the setting used in other previous versions of PC where disabling Windows auto update is an option.

In other to be certain that your PC is protected, go to Settings >>> Update & security to check and see if the security fix is waiting in your update queue. If not, click on Update history or View installed update history to see if it was already installed.

#4.   For macOS

The Mac OS High Sierra 10.13.2 update which was released on 6th December 2017 includes fixes for a number of the flaws. Apple disclosed that with iPhones and iPads, similar mitigations have been released for macs as well.

Also Read:   New Mac Flaw - Anyone Can Login to Your Mac PC as “Root”

Just tap the Apple menu button in the upper-left hand corner of your screen and select About this Mac to see if you've got the latest version. If not, open the App Store application, click on the Update tab and update your operating system to the latest Mac OS High Sierra 10.13.2

#5.   For Apple Watch

Apple says the Apple Watch isn't affected by Meltdown. As for Spectre, it will work on mitigations in future versions of its watchOS.

#6.   Apple TV

Like they did with Macs, iPhones, and iPads, Apple was able to quietly sneak fixes into its December software update for the Apple TV. tvOS 11.2. To make sure that you are up to date and protected, go to Settings >>> System >>> Software Updates and pick Update Software.

Also Read:  How To Watch Free DSTV Station Using Your Phone

#7.   For Google Chrome

Chrome browser is set to start blocking ads starting from the next update which is scheduled for January 23, 2018. This update should also include mitigations to protect your desktop and phone from web-based attacks. But if you don't want to wait, Google says an experimental feature called Site Isolation can help.

According to Google, Site Isolation makes each website use its own individual instance of the Chrome browser, instead of grouping different websites you browse together in a single process -- which helps save your computer's memory, among other things. Thereby making harder for a malicious website to access data from other websites you're browsing (using these new CPU exploits) and potentially do bad things.

Also Read:   4 Best Chromium Based Alternative Web Browsers For Your PC

To enable Site Isolation on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS or Android:

1.   Type or copy-paste chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process into the URL field at the top of your Chrome web browser, then hit the Enter key.

2.   Look for Strict Site Isolation, then tap or click the box labeled Enable.

3.  Relaunch chrome to apply the changes.

For Chrome on iOS (iPhone, iPad), Google says Apple will deliver any necessary fixes.

#8.   For Google Chromebooks

In a rather surprising released support notes, Google revealed that Chromebooks with ARM chips aren't affected at all. Google's Chromebooks are or will be, automatically protected from these flaws. Google went further to advise that Chromebooks with other processors (generally Intel) include mitigation as of Chrome OS version 63, which started rolling out in mid-December. 

Also Read:   Run Windows Apps on Chromebooks With CrossOver

Chromebook users are however advised to enable Site Isolation in Chrome OS which the method on how to enable Site Isolation in Chrome has been treated in #7 above.

#9.   For Other Browsers

Mozilla, Microsoft, and Apple each said they'll update their web browsers to reduce the threat of the new attack methods. Mozilla has already begun updating its current Firefox Quantum 57 and Microsoft will modify both its Internet Explorer and new Edge browsers.

#10.   Google Home, Chromecast, WiFi, OnHub, Gmail, Apps, and Services

Google says none of its other consumer-facing products are affected by these vulnerabilities.

So that is all about Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws and how to protect yourself from Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws. We'll be updating this guide as new fixes become available

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