Modern CPU’s, to improve performance, will predict your next instructions, calculate them ahead of time, then store the results in a cache. Ergo, anything in that cache is sitting there to be stolen, which might be a password if you’ve just entered your username at your bank’s website if it were possible for a malicious actor to get to the cache.
Unfortunately, it is, thanks to flaws in the chip design.
This is why, in most (but not all) cases, you should install the current security update to your Windows, Mac, or Linux PC. (Yes, your iOS and Android devices, too. And your browsers.) The exception is a Windows PC with an AMD chipset on the motherboard, as the Windows update at this writing will brick this device. (We have a multimedia desktop Lenovo that is so configured.) Unless you have questions, and even if you don’t, give us a call first before proceeding – now would be a good time to make use of one of our affordable maintenance agreements, which include strong backup, restore, and contingency services.
Old Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines will be the most impacted.
In every case, your computer will take a performance hit – though it will not be noticeable for most users.
The real performance impact comes with CPU-intensive processing, such as 3D modeling, complex financials, encryption, and servers. The biggest hit, up to 30%, will be to servers running payment gateways, such as PayPal and credit card processing. And you might feel this when making online transactions.
The exact nature of this vulnerability is not public information, as the manufacturers and software publishers do not want to expose the important technical information that would provide an attack vector until all patches have been published and widely installed. Intel, AMD, ARM, and Qualcomm CPU’s are all affected.
For more reading on how this can affect your PC, visit The Verge.
If you are a tech nerd, Computerphile has posted a video in highly technical language.
As of this writing, Intel has already been hit with three class action lawsuits, and we expect to see more.