You've probably heard about two critical design flaws in computer processors. The security flaw affects almost every CPU around, including mobile devices. Here we won't go into details of flaws named "Meltdown" and "Spectre" but focus on how to protect from them.
To protect your PC, you'll need to update your operating system, firmware of your hardware and installed software like your web browser.
Do you really have those flaws?
For Intel PCs, the firm has a small tool for checking your CPU model against Meltdown and Spectre. The tool clearly says if you've problem or not. But even if your computer is not vulnerable, we recommend you be on safe side and take steps below.
1. Run the Windows Update
Windows 10 should do it automatically, and probably it already installed necessary patches, but you can also run it to be sure. Open the Start Menu, type Update and Click Check for Updates button.
If the screen says it already downloaded the update, follow the instructions to install or restart computer. The update is named KB4056892.
It's said that some third party antivirus software can delay this update to arrive. In this case you'll need to wait for your antivirus provider to release its own update.
2. Download updates from your PC's manufacturer
Intel chips inside your computer also needs to be updated. Manufacturer updates come in form of Windows's Windows Update. If you've assembled your own computer, you'll need to search for updates in Intel's or AMD's web site and your mainboard manufacturer's web page.
3. Check if your browser is updated
Web browsers are playing important role for attackers looking to exploit these bugs. Fortunately most browser developers already made their fixes available. Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer have updates available for the flaws. Meanwhile Google is preparing an update for the bug in the upcoming version which is going to be released on January 23. Apple is planning to release an update for Safari soon.
Some browsers update themselves automatically but require a restart to complete the installation. Check your browser's settings to see if it's up to date or needs a restart.
What if you ignore Spectre and Meltdown?
If your system has Meltdown and / or Spectre flaw and when one day somebody starts exploiting these flaws, your valuable information can be easily stolen. This includes your passwords, passwords in password manager, emails, credit card details and much more. So don't underestimate all those warnings around and take necessary steps.
Should you worry?
If you've taken all security measures mentioned here, not so much because there aren't any signs that Meltdown or Spectre is used out in the wild. But as always, don't click unknown links in your emails and don't download and run programs from shady websites.