Beware of Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws

Massive security vulnerabilities in modern CPUs are forcing a redesign of the kernel software at the heart of all major operating systems. Since the issues dubbed Meltdown and Spectre exist in the CPU hardware itself, Windows, Linux, Android, macOS, iOS, Chromebooks, and other operating systems all need to protect against the first exploits that have begun circulating. And worse, plugging the hole can negatively affect your PC’s performance.

How to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws

Here’s a quick step-by-step checklist, followed by the full process.

  • Update your operating system
  • Check for firmware updates
  • Update your browser
  • Update other software
  • Keep your antivirus active

First, and most important: Update your operating system right now. The more severe flaw, Meltdown, affects “effectively every [Intel] processor since 1995,” according to the Google security researchers that discovered it. It’s an issue with the hardware itself, but the major operating system makers have rolled out updates that protect against the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws.

 Microsoft pushed out an emergency Windows patch late in the day on January 3. If it didn’t automatically update your PC, head to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, then click the Check now button under “Update status.” (Alternatively, you can just search for “Windows Update,” which also works for Windows 7 and 8.) Your system should detect the available update and begin downloading it. Install the update immediately. We do not recommend manually installing the Windows Meltdown patches if Microsoft hasn’t pushed them to your PC via Windows Update.

Apple quietly worked Meltdown protections into macOS High Sierra 10.13.2, which released in December. If your Mac doesn’t automatically apply updates, force it by going into the App Store’s Update tab. Chromebooks should have already updated to Chrome OS 63 in December. It contains mitigations against the CPU flaws. Patches are also available for the Linux kernel.

pcworld.com

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