Spectre (not the James Bond one)

By | January 15, 2018
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You should only read this if you have a PC, a laptop, a Mac, an iPad, an Android tablet, an iPhone or an Android phone…

But probably everyone reading this has at least one of them.

Over Christmas, the ITV showed the newest James Bond film, Spectre. I don’t know if you watched it. We did and quite liked it. Of course, I still reckon no-one else matches Roger Moore or Sean Connery as Bond.

That’s not the Spectre I’m talking about, though.

You see, recently there was a big kerfuffle about some newly discovered security flaws in some “CPU” chips – the chips that power computers and so on. They called the flaws Spectre and Meltdown.

I say newly discovered, but actually they discovered it a while ago – but were keeping quiet until they’d fixed them. No point in telling the bad guys it’s there if they hadn’t spotted it themselves!

At first it sounded like it was only chips made by Intel that were a problem – but it turned out lots of other devices were or could be affected as well. Pretty much all of them, in fact, including AMD chips for a PC, ones running iPhones and so on – hence the list at the start of this article.

I should stress that as far as anyone knows, these flaws haven’t actually been used yet to attack any computers or other devices. Writing a virus or other malware to use the flaws isn’t going to be a quick job for the bad guys, even now they know what the flaws are. At the moment, it’s all a case of getting the flaws fixed first so they never get used by hackers.

Microsoft have been rushing out updates to Windows, Apple and Google have rushed out updates to the systems that run on phones and tablets and so on. So I wanted to stress that it’s particularly important to let your phone/tablet/computer do any updates it wants to. I’d always say it’s good to let it stay up to date, but at the moment it’s especially important.

Some people have reported that some of these updates have slowed their devices down – and I’ve seen some news websites saying it could slow your device down by up to 30%. There’s even been a hint that you might want to block the update so it doesn’t slow your computer, tablet or whatever down.

When I’ve looked closer at the numbers, the 30% seems pretty unlikely – for most people it’s much more likely to either be unnoticable or by maybe 5%.

Either way, I really wouldn’t recommend blocking the updates. Even if it did slow your device down by 30% (which as I say, looks pretty unlikely in reality), that’s better than leaving it with a flaw that lets hackers in. (And if you think a slow computer is a pain, imagine what it’s like after hackers have had their way with it!)

So to sum it up: the main thing you need to do is let updates happen as they should. And maybe be glad that on this occasion the good guys found the problem before the hackers!

Inner Circle doors open at 11am today

A quick note that we’ll be allowing new members into my Tech Inner Circle today at 11am – for the first time in over a year.

If you’re already a member, look out for new members in the Clubroom. If you’re not already a member, look out for an email with all the details at 11am (UK time) today.

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