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What are these new CPU bugs affecting nearly every computer and device?

If you’re confused by the avalanche of early reports, denials, and conflicting statements about the massive security issues announced today, don’t worry — you’re far from the only one. Here’s what you need to know about Meltdown and Spectre, the two huge bugs that affect practically every computer and device out there. What are these flaws? Short answer: Bugs at a fundamental level that allow critical information stored deep inside computer systems to be exposed. Security researchers released official documentation — complete with nicknames and logos — of two major flaws found in nearly all modern central processing units, or CPUs. It’s not a physical problem with the CPUs themselves, or a plain software bug you might find in an application like Word or Chrome. It’s in between, at the level of the processors’ “architectures,” the way all the millions of transistors and logic units work together to carry out instructions. In modern architectures, there are inviolable spaces where data passes through in raw, unencrypted form, such as inside the kernel, the most central software unit in the architecture, or in system memory carefully set aside from other applications. This data has powerful protections to prevent it from being interfered with or even observed by other processes and applications. Meltdown and Spectre are two techniques researchers have discovered that circumvent those protections, exposing nearly any data the computer processes, such as passwords, proprietary information, or encrypted communications. Meltdown affects Intel processors, and works by breaking through the barrier that prevents applications from accessing arbitrary locations in kernel memory. Segregating and protecting memory spaces prevents applications from accidentally interfering with one another’s data, or malicious software from being able to see and modify it at will. Meltdown makes this fundamental process fundamentally unreliable. Spectre affects Intel, AMD, and ARM processors, broadening its reach to include mobile phones, embedded devices, and pretty much anything with a chip in it. Which, of course, is everything from thermostats to baby monitors now. It works differently from Meltdown; Spectre essentially tricks applications into accidentally disclosing information that would normally be inaccessible, safe inside their protected memory area. This is a trickier one to pull off, but because it’s based on an established practice in multiple chip architectures, it’s going to be even trickier to fix. Who is affected? Short answer: Pretty much everybody....

Read More: TechCrunch

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