SAN FRANCISCO — Computer security experts have discovered two major security flaws in the microprocessors inside nearly all of the world’s computers.
The two problems, called Meltdown and Spectre, could allow hackers to steal the entire memory contents of a computer. There is no easy fix for Spectre, which could require redesigning the processors, according to researchers. As for Meltdown, the software patch needed to fix the issue could slow down computers by as much as 30 percent — an ugly situation for people used to fast downloads from their favorite online services.
“What actually happens with these flaws is different and what you do about them is different,” said Paul Kocher, an independent researcher who was an integral part of the team that discovered the flaws.
That leaves the computing services run by the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft, where many of the world’s business and independent developers run their websites and other software, open to hackers.
These so-called cloud services often share machines among many customers. Though security tools and protocols are intended to separate the customers’ data, the recently discovered chip flaws would allow bad actors to circumvent these protections.