What do I need to do to protect my computer from the microprocessor flaws?
This question was answered on January 11, 2018. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
The Meltdown and Spectre processor security flaws, which many are calling the worst processor bug ever, should be of concern for all computer users.
Virtually every computer made since 1995 is considered to be vulnerable because of what has come to light as a design flaw in the way processors work.
Tech companies are scrambling to patch this serious hole, with lots of issues of who needs to do what first creating lots of confusion.
There are three main things that need to be updated in order to ensure you are protected: operating system, browsers and BIOS/Firmware
Operating System Updates
In most cases, operating system updates are pretty straightforward and often times automatic for Windows users, but not in this case.
The available Windows update that patches the OS hole will only install properly if your anti-virus provider has created a provision in their protection that allows this critical update to install.
Without this ‘registry key’ in place, users that try to install the update can experience system problems including the dreaded Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD).
Making sure your anti-virus program has updated your system is a critical first step (check the support website for your program). The full technical explanation from Microsoft is available here: https://goo.gl/Y6dN5t
Apple users need to update their computers, mobile devices and even Apple TVs with MacOS 10.13.2, iOS 11.2 and tvOS 11.2 respectively.
Android users need to check their devices regularly to see if there is an available update as there is no one update for all Android-based phones.
Every browser you use on every device needs be updated to the latest version, but this is the easiest and most straightforward process of the three. All of the major browsers have already created updates to patch this flaw, so there is nothing to wait for here.
This is by far the most complicated and least clarified part of the update. Intel announced that they plan to have firmware updates for 90% of processors made in the past 5 years by Jan 13th and older processors by the end of the month.
Think of firmware as a software update with operating instructions for a piece of hardware.
What makes this layer of protection so complicated is that figuring out where to get the patch depends on who made your computer’s motherboard and installing it requires some technical knowledge. It’s also a bit risky because if something unexpected happens, like a power outage, you can render your computer’s motherboard useless.
Intel has published a detection tool for Windows and Linux users that can help you determine if you are vulnerable to these flaws at: https://goo.gl/AJ3FEs but it won’t necessarily tell you exactly where you’ll need to go to get the update.
We’re also not clear at this point on what AMD or Mac users should do as it pertains to firmware updates, so we’re monitoring press releases to see if clarity comes soon.
As this is a dynamic situation with lots of unanswered questions, we’re compiling the information and will be emailing anyone that wants our suggestions once all of the updates have been clearly articulated: https://goo.gl/forms/JlVzPjJLAuwPmAPB3
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on January 11, 2018