Spectre & Meltdown Vulnerabilities: How To Protect Your Device and Personal Information

Researchers have discovered two new flaws in the microchips that run most computers, laptops, and smartphones, and it could have implications for hundreds of millions of tech users. The Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, as they’ve been dubbed, were first believed to only impact Intel chips, but the number of affected chips by several different manufacturers has grown significantly.

Now, Meltdown is known to affect only Intel processors while all other chips contain the Spectre vulnerability. These chips act as the “brain” of the device; essentially, when you’re on the internet, your web browser is running a super-fast investigation of each and every web page you visit, looking for security signatures. These two vulnerabilities in the processors—no matter if you’re on your computer, your iPhone, or any other similar device—can allow a very skilled hacker to jump in during that tiny portion of time and steal data from your computer.

NOTE: If you have an Apple Watch, that is one of the few devices that is not affected by either of these two flaws and therefore, there is no need to worry about a patch. Also, researchers have said only a very skilled cybercriminal could actually exploit these vulnerabilities, rather than just a run-of-the-mill hacker.

These Department of Homeland Security has sent out a warning to all government agencies about the two vulnerabilities, and some government-backed software researchers have urged tech users to install updates from their manufacturers as they become available. Since swapping out the microchips in every device just isn’t feasible, companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have issued patch updates for their browsers to block the vulnerability.

It is absolutely vital that tech consumers understand this kind of issue. Whether it’s Meltdown or Spectre or the next fancy name to come across the news, updates protect you when a new threat is uncovered. Failing to update your software, your browsers, your apps, and other devices means you’re only protected from the threats that the industry knew about the last time you installed your software…even if that hasn’t happened since the day you purchased your device.

Some tech users like to set up their devices so that updates are automatically installed. Other users are less comfortable with that idea and prefer to address updates themselves as they are released. No matter how you set up your update preferences, remember that some of them just fix simple little problems while others work to protect you and your information from cybercrime.


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Read next: Synthetic vs. True Identity Fraud

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