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Our microprocessors are compromised. What now?




The microprocessor's card of the first microcomputer named
The microprocessor's card of the first microcomputer named "Micral N", is shown by the auctioneer on May 11, 2017 in Tours, ahead of an auction next month.
GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images

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Researchers have discovered two major processor security flaws, called “Meltdown” and “Spectre,” which allow hackers to access and steal computer information from devices computers, as well as phones and servers running in cloud networks.

These design flaws are built into almost every computer made in the last 20 years. Meltdown compromises Intel processors and can threaten cloud-computing systems, such as Amazon Web Services. Software patches have been released for Meltdown, but they could significantly slow down your computer’s processing power. Spectre, on the other hand, has no simple solution and could necessitate a complete processor redesign.

What are these design flaws and how can they be exploited? Why is this information being released to the public now? What can consumers do to protect their data?

Guests:

Nicole Perlroth, cybersecurity reporter for the New York Times; she recently co-wrote the article “Researchers Discover Two Major Flaws in the World’s Computers”; she tweets @nicoleperlroth

Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike and former Vice President of Threat Research at the security software company McAfee; he tweets @DAlperovitch