Ahas been discovered in many modern processors that could allow hackers to access data on your computer including passwords, encryption keys and other information you want kept private which are stored in the protected kernel memory of your computer, phone or tablet.
Known by the names Spectre and Meltdown, the flaws affect chips from Intel and Arm. Intel’s rival AMD believes its chips are safe, saying in a statement, “Due to differences in AMD’s architecture, we believe there is a near zero risk to AMD processors at this time.”
Here are the steps to take to keep your Windows laptop or computer safe from Meltdown and Spectre.
Install the emergency Windows patch
Microsoft have released a rare, out-of-band emergency patch for Windows 10 users which should pop up and ask you to restart your machine so it can be installed. If you have yet to receive such a notification, then you can go to Settings > Update & security see if there are updates waiting on the Windows Update page. If you are running Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update), then the patch you need is labeled Security Update for Windows (KB4056892).
For older versions of Windows 10, here are the patch numbers:
- Windows 10 version 1703 (Creators Update): KB4056891
- Windows 10 version 1607 (Anniversary Update): KB4056890
- Windows 10 version 1511 (November Update): KB4056888
- Windows 10 version 1507 (Initial Release): KB4056893
Manual install route
If you have yet to receive the patch via Windows Update, you can manually install it by going to this Windows Update Catalog page. Odds are you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, so you’ll want to install the file for x64-based systems. For Fall Creators Update, for example, it’s the bottom-most option labeled “2018-01 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1709 for x64-based Systems (KB4056892).”
How can I be sure I’m protected?
To check to see if you have installed the necessary patch, go to Settings > Update & security and click View installed update history. Under Quality Updates, look to see that Security Update for Windows (KB4056892) was successfully installed.
You can also check by going to Settings > System > About and scrolling down to the Windows specifications section. After installing the KB4056892 patch, the OS Build will read 16299.125.
What else can I do?
There have been no known attacks using the Meltdown or Spectre vulnerabilities as of yet, but now that these flaws have been made public, the odds tick up that hackers will try to exploit them. After updating Windows and checking for a firmware update, you should run a scan using your AV app to check for any malicious software on your system. Also keep your apps updated, most notably your browser, and, as always, beware of phishing emails that can give hackers access to your machine.