Vulnerabilities in microchips provide a gateway to hackers, experts claim.
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A serious flaw reportedly present in all Intel’s CPUs made in the past 10 years is leaving devices vulnerable to hackers, security experts have warned.
The problem requires a major operating system (OS) update in order to fix. It has been reported that chips produced by ARM and AMD are also at risk, together with Intel covering almost the entire market.
Cyber security experts uncovered two vulnerabilities which affect nearly all microchips.
The two flaws, named Spectre and Meltdown, permit access to hackers who can steal data. Experts warned it is possible hackers have already discovered vulnerabilities and exploited them - there is no way of knowing.
Meltdown allegedly affects all systems running Intel x86 chips and is present across all popular operating systems, including Windows, Linux and macOS.
Spectre affects Intel, AMD and ARM cores. Apple has today confirmed that all iOS devices - including iPhones, Apple TV and iPads are also at risk from attack.
Ross Brewer, managing director of EMEA at security intelligence firm LogRhythm, said: “This is without doubt the most disturbing issue to hit the industry for decades - with all modern processors, computing devices and operating systems affected.
"This really is the big one, and everyone - consumers and businesses alike - must pay attention. Not only is the attack surface the biggest we’ve seen, with so many devices at risk globally, the exposure window is also huge as it is reliant on people voluntarily patching their systems, which obviously has a significant lag.
"Though Intel have vowed to make every machine virtually immune to known superbugs such as Spectre and Meltdown, there are reports emerging today that shares were sold just before the vulnerability came to light. Of course, if this turns out to be true, this would be a big concern as it doesn’t align to the trusted ‘Intel Inside’ brand values that we as consumers all signed up to."
There is no fix for Spectre, and while a patch is available for Meltdown, it could slowdown computer operating performance by up to 30%, said analysts.
“Last year, we all witnessed what can happen when unpatched machines are used to spread malware worldwide - and it’s safe to say that nobody wants a repeat of that," said Bewer. "Consumers must also take time to understand what’s happened and learn how they can protect their phones, watches, computers and other devices through patching."