Apple Warns of Potential Chip Vulnerabilities

Apple Warns of Potential Chip Vulnerabilities

Apple Warns of Potential Chip Vulnerabilities

If hackers manage to get software running on one of these chips, they can grab data from other software running on the same machine.

Apple has confirmed all its Mac systems and iOS devices are affected by two recently disclosed processor flaws called Spectre and Meltdown.

Users have little choice but to wait for new software patches from makers of their devices, the researchers said.

In recent days, cybersecurity experts have released information about design flaws in microchips produced or designed by such companies as Intel, AMD and Arm Holdings, which control nearly all the chip market.

"Here is the simple truth: Every CPU created since 1995 is a victim of these bugs", said Ahmed Banafa, a cybersecurity professor at San Jose State University.

Dr Yuval Yarom from the University of Adelaide's School of Computer Science, and Data61, is part of an worldwide team that has reported on security vulnerabilities in Intel processors made over the last two decades, which could affect computers, mobile phones and cloud servers. Microsoft said users should check with their computer manufacturers for more information.

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Intel says the update it released last week fixing the security flaw in its computer chips will not slow down systems after experts predicted it would reduce CPU usage by 30 per cent.

Researchers at Google's Project Zero, academic institutions and private companies published their findings on the vulnerabilities Wednesday.

One of the bugs is specific to Intel but another affects laptops, desktop computers, smartphones, tablets and internet servers alike.

So, the best advice on how to respond to Meltdown and Spectre is to seek advice - and from an IT professional.

"All future Arm Cortex processors will be resilient to this style of attack or allow mitigation through kernel patches", the company said in a statement. If you use a third-party anti-virus app, however, you may not be able to install this update, yet another reason to switch to Microsoft's free, built-in Windows Defender. Mozilla has not yet announced when it will release the updated version for Android users.

The good news for users of Android devices is that users who have installed its most recent security updates are already protected, as are Gmail users.

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Wait, what if I have an older system that's not getting updates?

But the main thing that users need to know is that the computer companies are now or soon will be issuing software updates or "patches", which will minimise (but possibly not eliminate) potential problems. KPTI better protects that sensitive kernel memory, but because of the aforementioned tradeoff, people were anxious that this solution would cause a noticeable slowdown, particularly for huge cloud providers like Google and Amazon. Spectre, like Meltdown, tricks applications into granting access to locations in memory, giving it a secret passage around the digital ramparts built into major operating systems like Linux and Windows. Apple said it had released software patches for iOS, Macs and the Apple TV that help mitigate the issue.

Since the news of these exploits has come out, AMD stock has skyrocketed while Intel's has dipped significantly. Intel last year said it would spend US$7 billion (RM28 billion) on a U.S. factory, and it had already started building the facility years ago.

The flaws potentially enables an attacker to read data in memory that an exploit should not have access to. "Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices - with many different vendors' processors and operating systems - are susceptible to these exploits". However, on Thursday, Google researchers said they had found a way to prevent a Spectre exploitation by patching software. And so far - in something of a repeat of the 1994 incident - Intel has failed to quiet critics, putting it in an awkward position this week as its chief executive prepares to take the stage at one of the world's biggest tech trade shows. According to what's known now, devices using AMD and ARM processors are not affected, but it's not 100 percent certain.

ARM does not have publicly traded shares as it was acquired by the Japanese conglomerate Softbank in 2016. They are urging Intel to fix the problem and to offer those affected compensation for any losses that have occurred.

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