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What is Spectre? And Meltdown!? Will my Mac meltdown?

No they are no the latest Bond movies! Sadly they are new security issues affecting a performance feature of modern CPUs called speculative execution. 

Are my devices affected?

The short answer is yes, all macOS and iOS devices are affected. Meltdown primarily affect all computers with Intel CPUs but in Apple's case also affects iOS & tvOS devices. Spectre affects all macOS, iOS and tvOS devices.  watchOS has escaped this latest security issue. If you have PCs and Android devices they are also affected. Many cloud services that rely on these CPUs are also affected.

There are no known exploits impacting Apple customers at this time.

What is Apple doing about it?

To be honest, there isn’t really a single fix. The issues causing the security risks are baked right into the very design of the CPUs. Apple is already taking steps to mitigate the risks.

In December, Apple released macOS 10.13.2, iOS 11.2, and tvOS 11.2 which all contain mitigations designed to lessen the risk. Further mitigations are being worked on and will be released in the upcoming updates. In addition an update to Safari for macOS and iOS will be released shortly to fix an issue with Javascript.

Should I go dark and turn off all my devices?

It is probably not necessary to retreat into your panic room quite yet. Your Mac Tech recommends a sensible approach to security which should keep you safe from these issues. The following precautions from our macOS antivirus article should always be taken to avoid any potential security issues.

  • Only open files if they are expected and from trusted sources.
  • Only visit trusted websites.
  • Leave Apple's default security protections in place.
  • Ensure your email provider has antivirus protections.
  • Keep macOS, iOS and your apps up to date.
  • Don't connect your Mac or iOS to public wifi networks.
  • Only download apps from trusted developers.

While the risk is currently low there are hundreds of millions of devices affected which makes the exploits a potentially lucrative target.

I heard the fixes will slow down my devices. Is that true?

It's too early to be sure but according to Apple the December updates intended to mitigate the Meltdown issue have no measurable impact on performance. The upcoming updates to Safari may have a minor <2.5% impact in some circumstances.

As always please feel free to contact Your Mac Tech if you would like any advice or assistance.

UPDATE 09/01/2018

Apple has released three new security updates to protect Safari from the Spectre attack. The three updates make changes to iOS, macOS, and Safari itself but all relate to updating the protections in Safari and against attacks exploiting the recently published Spectre vulnerability. Your Mac Tech recommends you update your devices to the latest versions.

What is Spectre? And Meltdown!? Will my Mac meltdown?