Apple releases update to help protect against the Spectre chip flaw

Go get that iOS update.

Make sure to update your iPhones, iPads, Apple laptops and desktops.

Apple released an iOS update for those devices (and the iPod Touch if you happen to have one) on Monday meant to help prevent someone from taking advantage of the Spectre chip flaw.

Spectre is one of two vulnerabilities publicized by researchers last week that could allow someone to access basically anything in a device's memory – passwords, photos, text messages, etc.

These two flaws were found not in computer software, but within the processors used in the devices. And many devices made over the past 20 years use one of these chips – meaning millions of people are vulnerable. 

Apple last week acknowledged its devices were impacted, and issued an update to protect against the other flaw, known as Meltdown.


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Monday's update addresses Spectre, and makes security improvements to Safari and WebKit to help "mitigate the effects" of the flaw.

"Mitigate," it should be noted, doesn't necessarily mean "totally fix the problem." As The Verge writes, the updates protect "Safari and the underlying browser engine" against Spectre attacks.

Apple doesn't mention a repair of the root cause. But that makes sense.

Mending the flaw in the chip itself, "is not an easy fix," researchers who discovered Spectre wrote. That's because the issue is deeply embedded within the processor, and could require a total retooling of how they're made, the New York Times reported.

Apple's update should help patch some of the most worrisome weak points though, and the company said there are no known reports of Spectre (or Meltdown) actually being applied to its devices.

But in addition to keeping your phones and tablets and computers updated, Apple has another suggestion: be careful what you download.


– 5 things to learn from the Explore Minnesota Facebook hack

Spectre and Meltdown can only be used if malware is installed on a machine. The best way to prevent that from happening is to ensure everything you download comes from a safe source.

So stick to App Store apps, Apple suggested. And if anything looks fishy, even in the slightest, don't click or download it.

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