NZers not immune from Intel computer chip flaw

File Photo.

A design flaw affecting Intel computer chips is more serious than a computer virus outbreak, according to a New Zealand technology commentator, because the vulnerability is built in and therefore harder to contain.

Intel, the world's leading computer chip manufacturer, has admitted to a design flaw that leaves users vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Technology commentator Bill Bennett said the problem was worrying for New Zealanders, who were keen users of cloud-based software which was particularly at risk from cyber attacks because of the design flaw.

Mr Bennett said the flaw affected all computers, and there were some simple steps users could take to avoid the risk of hacking, such as keeping all operating systems and web browsers up to date and installing adblocker software.

"The problem really comes with Android because [with] Android phones it's very hard to upgrade.

"Most Android phone manufacturers don't release regular updates to the software, so if you've got an Android phone, you're probably going to stay vulnerable for a lot longer than everyone else."

Eighty percent of phones use Android software.

Apple and Microsoft scramble to protect customers

Both Apple and Microsoft are urging customers to update their operating systems, as tech firms race to fix two bugs that researchers have shown leave computers vulnerable to hacking.

Experts this week found two new bugs that are more sinister than usual.

'Meltdown' and 'Spectre' are two bugs that could allow hackers to steal stored data on desktops, laptops, phones, tablets, and cloud networks.

Apple said all iPhones, iPads and Macs were susceptible, as they all contained the commonly used microchips that feature the security flaws.

Apple has released some patches to mitigate the Meltdown flaw.

Google said its Android phones were protected if users had the latest security updates.

And Microsoft has already released fixes for many of its services.

Governments and security experts said they had not observed cyber attacks seeking to exploit either vulnerability, though they expected hackers to attempt to do so as they digested technical data about the security flaws.

Users are being advised to install any software updates and be careful about what they download and the websites they visit.

Intel Corp downplayed concerns that software updates to address security vulnerabilities in its computer chips will slow down machines.

"Intel continues to believe that the performance impact of these updates is highly workload-dependent and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time," the world's No. 1 chipmaker said in a release.

The release cited comments from Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc's and Microsoft Corp , which said that they had seen no significant impact to performance after installing the patches.

Major software makers have not issued patches to protect against the second vulnerability, dubbed Spectre, which affects nearly all computer chips made in the last decade. However, Google, Firefox and Microsoft have implemented measures in most web browsers to stop hackers from launching remote attacks using Spectre.

-RNZ


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