This week, news of massive security vulnerabilities afflicting every modern model of Intel processor went public, even as developers for practically every major platform frantically rushed to roll out fixes.
The Meltdown and Spectre flaws—two related vulnerabilities that enable a wide range of information disclosure from every mainstream processor, with particularly severe flaws for Intel and some ARM chips—were originally revealed privately to chip companies, operating system developers, and cloud computing providers. That private disclosure was scheduled to become public some time next week, enabling these companies to develop (and, in the case of the cloud companies, deploy) suitable patches, workarounds, and mitigations.
Everyday home users shouldn’t panic too much though. Just apply all available updates and keep your antivirus software vigilant, as ever. If you want to dive right into the action without all the background information, we’ve also created a focused guide on how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre.
How to Protect Yourself From Spectre
While you can protect yourself from Meltdown, it’s harder to defend against the more invasive Spectre flaw. According to researchers involved in discovering and reporting on the two exploits, software updates to patch particular flaws in Spectre are possible, though none are available yet, or are able to address the exploit completely without a redesign of the operating system and the microprocessor itself.
How to Protect Yourself From Meltdown
The Meltdown flaw, luckily, is already being patched by companies like Microsoft and Google. To ensure you’re up to date, follow the instructions for your operating system.