Your computer is at risk from vulnerabilities Meltdown or Specter that have been at the center of Intel and AMD processors over the past two decades? Probably. The question is what should you do next?
Although Intel and AMD processors directly involved with Apple, Microsoft, and various Linux distributions to develop updates, your PC may not be affected. This is especially true if you are running an older operating system.
So you might want to buy a new computer. But which devices are available at the moment are not at risk?
The problem and the solution
Meltdown and Specter are hardware-related bugs that affect the majority of computers and mobile devices. The weakness exists in the way (and in the order in which) a CPU processes data and can be exploited by a remote attacker.
This results in data from your browser's current session (or other data on your computer) being compromised by leakage. The security gap can also be used against virtual VM environments.
Meltdown affects only Intel processors, while Specter affects Intel, AMD and ARM processors.
Fortunately for now, malicious users do not seem to have found a way to exploit vulnerabilities. However, it is vital to install any security updates that are released by your computer manufacturer. Hackers know that they will not install all the updates, so there will be an attempt to take advantage of the error.
Sure, once vulnerabilities have been detected and published, sooner or later, malware will be released.
We mention this to emphasize the need for immediate updates in the coming weeks and months. If there are no updates, consider seriously buying a new phone, tablet, computer or laptop.
How many devices are affected
Twenty years ago, Apple users could be crazy about it, as vulnerability affects only Intel processors. In the coming years, of course, Apple avoided traditional PPC processors and changed them with Intel.
These days, the overwhelming majority of desktop and laptop computers run on 32-bit or 64-bit processors, Intel or AMD. Meanwhile, mobile devices use overwhelming ARM CPUs (although some use Intel processors).
Therefore, you probably have to be sure your Windows computer or laptop is affected by security blanks. So do your Macs and Chromebooks. Errors are related to hardware and so the operating system is not a problem. The problem is how your CPU was designed.
Hardware not affected by Meltdown and Specter
One of the most common phrases used for these vulnerabilities is: "every CPU that has been released in the last 20 years is affected" but this is not completely true.
Indeed, some of the most popular devices currently on the market are not affected by Meltdown and Specter.
The forum.level1techs.com, published a list of old and new hardware that are unaffected.
Older CPUs not affected by Meltdown and Specter
Generally, older CPUs that may still be used can be found on older computers, workstations, and Apple G3 and G4 systems:
StrongARM: They were typically used on PDAs and PocketPCs in the 1990 and 2000 decade.
SuperSPARC: It was on servers and high-level workstations during the 1990.
The chips Transmeta Crusoe and Efficeon: They were commonly used on portable devices in the early 2000, and especially laptops.
"Classic" X86: Every computer with an Intel processor was released in the 80s, from the Pentium 1 era to the 90s. This includes WinChip, VIA C3, 386, 486 and their clones.
PPC 750 and PPC 7400: They are used on Mac G3 and G4 computers.
New processors not affected by security blanks
Overall, ARM processors are not affected by the vulnerabilities of Intel and AMD processors:
ARM Cortex-A7 MPCore: Located in Raspberry Pi 2.
ARM Cortex-A53 MPCore: Located in Raspberry Pi 3. It also appears on many Android phones, such as Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 or 650 SoC (System on a Chip).
Intel Atom: Many laptops and tablets are powered by Intel Atom processors. Those in the Diamondville, Silverthorne, Pine Trail and Pineview series are not affected by the Spectre and Meltdown gaps. You will need to check Google for details because of the huge number of Atom variants.
VIA C7: CPUs can be found on products with low-quality Windows XP and Vista.
Intel Itanium: there are servers running since the 2000 decade.
RISC-V: The open source processor architecture that is very popular in Internet of Things and works on Nvidia's GeForce graphics cards. Western Digital also announced its intention to use the RISC-V processors in its hardware.
The future: What about new computers?
Probably we have to wait in 2018, new computers with completely new processors, who are immune to Meltdown and Specter. Quite simply, processors will need to change technologies.
Do you need to change or modify?
Unfortunately, this time, there is nothing you can do. Windows 10 will install the updates, while devices running macOS and popular Linux distributions will need to be upgraded immediately with any updates that are released. But with the solutions that have been released so far, the problem does not seem to be solved.
New computers, smartphones and tablets will be released from 2018 onwards. Meltdown and Specter will not affect your computing experience forever as long as you're ready to change your system.