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Guide to Protecting your PC from Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws

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Two simultaneous CPU flaws exposed this week have serious ramifications for most home computer users. The two flaws; Meltdown and Spectre let attackers access protected information in your PC’s kernel memory, potentially revealing sensitive details like passwords, cryptographic keys, personal photos and email, or anything else you’ve used on your computer.

To combat this serious security flaw, CPU and operating system vendors have pushed out patches fast, and you can protect your PC from Meltdown and Spectre to some degree.

It’s not a quick one-and-done deal, though. There are two very different CPU flaws that touch every part of your operating system, from hardware to software to the operating system itself.

This guide focuses on how you can protect your computer against the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws.
Intel-CPU


How to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws


Here’s a quick step-by-step checklist.

  • Update your operating system
  • Check for firmware updates
  • Update your browser
  • 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 CPU flaw.

Where to update Windows 10.


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.

Settings-Windows-Updates


If you don’t see it for whatever reason, you can download the Windows 10 KB4056892 patch directly here. You’ll need to know whether to grab the 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) version of the update.

To determine if your PC runs a 32- or 64-bit version of Windows, simply type “system” (without the quotation marks) into Windows search and click the top listing. It’ll open a Control Panel window. The “System type” listing will tell you which version of Windows you’re running. Most PCs released in the past decade will be using the 64-bit operating system.
system-info

Are Apple MacOS, Chromebook or Linux machines affected?


Apple quietly worked Meltdown protections into macOS High Sierra 13.10.2, 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.

Linux developers are working on kernel patches. Patches are also available for the Linux kernel.

Now for the bad news. 


The operating system patches will slow down your PC, though the extent varies wildly depending on your CPU and the workloads you’re running. Intel expects the impact to be fairly small for most consumer applications like games or web browsing. You still want to install the updates for security reasons.

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About ITy Unit

ITy UNIT Tech Solution Centre provides innovative solutions to making your digital life easier. Browse through the archives here for list of posts on the site.
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