According to The New York Times, the microprocessors in virtually every computer on Earth have two major security flaws that could leave the computers vulnerable to hackers.
The two flaws, Meltdown and Spectre, could conceivably permit hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers. The threat of Spectre is so strong, it could require redesigning the processors; Meltdown’s deleterious effect could be mitigated by a software patch, but the patch could slow down computers by as much as 30%.
Meltdown poses a threat to the cloud computing services offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft. By Wednesday evening, Google and Microsoft asserted they had updated their systems appropriately. Amazon told customers of its Amazon Web Services cloud service that the company had already protected in nearly all instances of A.W.S., but warned customers to update their own software.
Personal computers are less vulnerable than others because hackers need the consumer to run software in order for hackers to gain entry.
The researchers discovering the problem said Meltdown affects virtually every microprocessor made by Intel, which produces chips used in over 90% of the computer servers buttressing the internet and private business operations.
The other flaw, Spectre, affects almost every computing system, not just ones with the Intel chip. The Times reports:
Spectre affects most processors now in use, though the researchers believe this flaw is more difficult to exploit. There is no known fix for it, and it is not clear what chip makers like Intel will do to address the problem.
On Wednesday, Intel stated:
Intel and other technology companies have been made aware of new security research describing software analysis methods that, when used for malicious purposes, have the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed. Intel believes these exploits do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data