Published: Tue, January 09, 2018
Technology | By Russell Knight

Apple Releases Security Updates for Spectre CPU Flaw

Apple Releases Security Updates for Spectre CPU Flaw

And while it's already applied patches to mitigate Meltdown (in iOS 11.2 and macOS 10.13.2), today it's time for a couple of software updates to go out in order to address Spectre. The update comes with a crucial Spectre fix for Safari, so be sure to update your machines as soon as you can.

While we were sleeping Apple dropped an update for iOS users that addresses Spectre - the two vulnerabilities that make it possible for items in kernel memory to be available to user processes.

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Work continues on mitigating the impact of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, including adding protections against JavaScript exploitation to web browsers. The researchers responsible for discovering the bug, including Google's Jann Horn, are thanked in the acknowledgments. Although there aren't any known exploits for this, and the related Meltdown vulnerability, in the wild the update is an important one for all iOS users.

The ongoing release of patches and firmware updates will help to protect users, but come at a cost: A performance impact of between five and 35 percent to selected server-centric workloads has been confirmed, with some companies reporting even higher hits from loss of the performance-boosting speculative execution instructions at the heart of the issue.

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iOS 11.2.2 for iPhone and iPad contains security fixes that aren't fully fleshed out, but Apple does say that they affect Safari and Webkit to "mitigate the effects of Spectre". "Since exploiting many of these issues requires a malicious app to be loaded on your Mac or iOS device, we recommend downloading software only from trusted sources such as the App Store". A Safari 11.0.2 update, which also addresses Spectre risks, is available for Macs running OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 and macOS Sierra 10.12.

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