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Security & privacy

Massive Intel security flaw leaves millions of PCs open to attack, update yours now!

Security isn’t typically the first thing people think of when they buy a computer. We tend to think of our systems as separate from software, so antivirus programs become our first line of defense against malware and hackers. Despite this perception, computer components are designed with some basic security features that protect data from outsiders. And they do work — most of the time.

When a flaw is discovered in a computer component, every single product with that part is now a major security risk. Developers will rush to contain the breach, possibly releasing patches to address flaws before any more damage can occur. But even with holes patched and a crisis averted, there’s nothing anyone can do to help victims affected before the flaw was noticed.

If this sounds like a security nightmare, you won’t be surprised by Intel’s panic at its latest security failure. A new flaw, dubbed “Zombieland,” was discovered in Intel chips found in millions of computers around the world. The risk is so bad the company is urging anyone affected to update their system immediately. We have the rundown on which systems are affected, and how you can protect yourself from a worst-case-scenario breach.

What is the security flaw found in Intel chips?

Intel recently announced the discovery of the Zombieland security flaw in its processing chips. This issue is similar to 2018’s Meltdown and Spectre flaws, which allowed potential hackers to access data stored in the chip for speedier processing.

In its current form, Zombieland allows bad actors to access critical security data for the entire computer — including encryption keys, passwords, and other essential files. Unlike the previous two flaws, however, a hacker must install malware on the host computer in order to compromise the system.

Given how easy it is to trick people into downloading malware, Intel is wasting no time in patching the issue. Affected computers include all 7th generation and earlier Intel Core processors. Systems with 8th generation Intel Core processors and above are not at risk for the security flaw, according to the company.

How can I protect myself from this massive security flaw

If your computer is one of the systems affected by Zombieland, you’ll need to update your operating system as soon as possible. Luckily, Intel has made the process quite a bit easier with its microcode updates. These updates allow developers to patch issues found on microchips without needing to completely rewrite the programming.

To access the updates for Windows, you’ll need to go into your Settings and click Update & Security. You won’t need to download the update from Intel, since Microsoft is bundling the patch in its latest operating system update. Once the update is downloaded, you should be protected from the security flaw.

Apple computers aren’t immune to Zombieland, by the way. Just like with Windows, Apple users will need to update macOS to patch the vulnerability. On your Mac, simply click the Apple icon on the left-hand side of the menu bar and click App Store. Here, you can download the latest update to whichever version of macOS you’re currently running.

As scary as these flaws can be, it’s a good thing they’re discovered so regularly. This means that companies like Intel are on top of its products — continuing security research even when they’ve been on the market for years.

If other companies like Facebook put the same amount of care into improving their systems, we might be able to curb cyber crime significantly. Until then, make sure to keep your system up to date. You never know what you might be letting in if you don’t.

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