Apple has confirmed that all Macs and iOS devices are affected by security vulnerabilities called Meltdown and Spectre
Another day, another digital security scare. They may sound like Bond movies, but in actuality Meltdown and Spectre are newly-discovered hardware bugs that affect pretty much all computer devices worldwide, including iPhones, iPads, and Macs as well as products from other manufacturers.
These vulnerabilities could potentially allow hackers to access your secure information, such as passwords or payment details, though there have been no reports of this actually happening yet. Even so, it’s a serious concern.
Apple has issued a statement explaining more about the vulnerabilities and how it intends to combat them, and it’s worth a read if you’re curious about the nitty-gritty technical details. Most people don’t want to spend their day reading about rogue data cache load and branch target injection, though, so we’ll summarize for you.
Meltdown is a bug that primarily affects Intel processors, enabling processes to read user memory. Apple thinks it has the most potential for exploitation. However, it also notes that no known exploits currently exist, and has already released updates that help mitigate these issues for iOS and MacOS.
What you can do
The most important thing you can do to be safe online is to always update to the latest system software as soon as possible. When these kinds of widespread vulnerabilities are found, Apple is usually pretty quick to release a fix to protect users, but it does require updating the operating system.
On iPhone and iPad, this means downloading the latest version of iOS. You can do this quickly and easily from the Settings app, under General > Software Update. We highly recommend you do this as soon as possible.
It’s also important to grab the latest Safari update when it goes live. You can do this manually via the Updates tab of the App Store, or for an easier life, you can turn on automatic downloads for apps from Settings > iTunes & App Stores.
Apple also notes that “exploiting many of these issues requires a malicious app to be loaded on your Mac or iOS device,” so it’s best to take caution when installing new apps. If you have a Mac, avoid installing new software from untrusted sources online for the time being.
Regarding iOS, you should be fine so long as you don’t jailbreak your device or sideload unofficial apps. Luckily, most people don’t know how to do this, and should be safe sticking to the App Store as usual. Just don’t forget those updates.