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  1. To quote The Register's original article revealing this issue (available here: AMD have been quick to issue a statement, stirring the waters a touch by somewhat-incorrectly stating their CPUs aren't affected, while indulging in some intel bashing along the way: ... and there you go... it seems you should run out and buy an AMD processor and motherboard right now! But hang on a minute... it's not quite as simple as that - lets look at what the bugs actually are, and what they actually affect. What's the big deal? Details of the bugs are still being kept somewhat under wraps, but the major high level details, including example exploitations, have now been revealed (here: There are in fact two separate, but related bugs, which have been called Meltdown & Spectre. While related, they work in slightly different ways and use slightly different attack techniques to trick the affected CPU to incorrectly allow access to what should be secure memory locations. Both bugs are significant and both have a high impact on anything and anyone running an affected CPU. In essence, these bugs affect any CPU which features "Speculative Execution". Speculative Execution is a feature designed into modern CPUs whereby a processor looks at the code currently being run and "guesses" what code may be needed next. It then goes and runs that code (using another feature known as "Out Of Order Execution") in case the user / application requests it, thus speeding up the overall response of a system. The bugs relate to the way in which CPUs perform that speculative execution and the security the place around the contents of memory produced as a result of, or accessed during, that speculative execution. Meltdown: Meltdown is a bug which affects mostly intel CPUs - it involves a process whereby the CPU can be tricked into allowing "user mode" applications to access "kernel mode" memory locations. (User mode in this case equates to what an application sees as being available; kernel mode equates to a highly restricted, god-like, see-all-do-all view of what data is available) This has the potential to allow for a malicious application to read the contents of kernel memory and reveal important, secure, information such as system passwords or other restricted information. Meltdown is so named because the bug "melts security boundaries which are normally enforced by the hardware". Spectre: Spectre is a bug which affects pretty much any CPU, certainly any which features Speculative Execution, specifically pretty much any intel CPU, pretty much any AMD CPU, pretty much any ARM CPU and probably many others. It involves a process where an application tricks the CPU into giving access to, and reading, memory allocated to (and therefore supposedly protected by) another application. Again, this has the potential to allow for a malicious application to read the contents of any other application's memory and reveal important, secure, information such as system passwords or other restricted information. Spectre is named after the root cause of the bug - "Speculative Execution". What is affected? Meltdown affects any device running an intel CPU. This includes some tablets; most laptop computers; most desktop computers; most servers (physical and virtual) and most of the hardware behind Cloud services. In other words, all Apple Mac computers; most Windows computers; most Linux (or *nix) computers; most Windows servers; Google Cloud servers; Amazon AWS Cloud servers; Microsoft Azure Cloud servers; VMWare servers; XEN servers; HyperV servers etc. Spectre affects pretty much any device with a modern CPU within it. This includes all Apple iPhones; all Apple iPads; all Android tablets; all Android phones; all Windows phones; all laptops, desktops, servers etc. running AMD processors; network switches; robot vacuums etc. Mitigation: Mitigation against these bugs is not easy. Spectre especially will be with us for some time as the only way to actually "fix" the bug is to re-design the processor architectures to avoid the issue occurring. Meltdown can be mitigated by re-writing the kernel (or base level) code used by devices. The fix involves moving the kernel-level memory to a different physical location within a processor's memory system, thus making it impossible for the bug to be used to read that memory. Unfortunately doing so introduces a performance hit to the system that kernel is running. This is currently being estimated as being between 5% and 30%, depending on the task being undertaken. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Cisco & Linux have all now confirmed patches for their relevant systems, although in some cases actually getting those patches may not be as easy as it should be. Below is a breakdown of what is know of each company's patches at the moment: Microsoft: Microsoft have released patches for Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, along with all supported versions of Windows Server. However, for the patch to be enabled, there has to be an update to, and co-operation with, any installed Anti-Virus software. This is to ensure against an old (bad) anti-virus software causing a system crash as a result of the Microsoft patch. Most AV software has now also been updated, but if you're not sure, uninstall your third party AV and let Windows Defender do the work - it is up to date and does enable the patches to function. Apple: Apple have stated that their latest iOS (iPhone and iPad) and MacOS (Macbook, iMac etc.) releases already contain patches to mitigate against these bugs. Google: Google say that if you are running the "latest security patches" for Android, then you are already protected from these bugs. However, due to the unique way Android works, your device manufacturer (Motorola, Samsung, LG, One+ etc) may not have released those patches yet. Indeed, even if the manufacturer has released the patches, your phone network provider (O2, Vodafone, EE, 3 (in the UK)) may not yet have approved them. Cisco: Cisco have released patches for their networking equipment "just in case". To get these patches you'll need a device that is still in support, plus a valid support contract from Cisco. Linux: The latest Linux kernels contain patches to mitigate against these bugs. It is of course up to individual Linux distributions to package those kernels into their software. ...we'll keep updating this article as and when more information becomes available...
  2. Intel has unveiled the world's smallest 3G modem. Smaller than a penny, Intel plans on it being put inside anything with a circuit so that it can all become connected to the great interweb in the sky. Intel promises these will be low powered and secure. Source
  3. We'll be covering the Windows, Android & Chrome Transformer Pads, tablets & laptops in future articles, but for now we're concentrating on the new ZenFone range, which, unlike some other manufacturers, will be available very soon indeed. First of all, let me say that while absolutely lovely products, the three phones launched tonight, the ZenFone 4, ZenFone 5 & ZenFone 6 (depicting their screen size), are not being pitched as absolute top-of-the-range Android devices. Their screens aren't QuadHD; their cameras aren't 20 MPix; their mass isn't 5 grams. However, what they are, are immensely usable, functional, very nice to hold, premium quality, fully specified handsets with the majority of features you would expect to find on the average Samsung, Motorola or HTC device. Asus are very much an Intel house. What this means is that they generally don't produce any device, be it a phone, laptop or tablet, which contains any processor other than an Intel chip. Subsequently the majority of the ZenFone range runs on the latest Intel quad-core Atom processors, tied to Android 4.4.2, ensuring not only excellent performance ratings, but also an exceptional range of available applications from the Play Store as well as all-important stand out battery life. It is worth noting however, that the Intel SOC doesn't yet support LTE, so any 4G Asus handsets are forced to use a "more traditional" ARM-based SOC, usually a Snapdragon processor. There is another side-effect, or more accurately a benefit, of Asus producing Intel-only devices - they get somewhat preferential pricing from Intel. What this mean to us, the consumer, is that we get to enjoy Asus' excellent products at rock-bottom prices! The ZenFone range starts at only £99.99 inc VAT! That's not an "on contract" price - that's the unsubsidised RRP for the ZenFone 4 in the UK! The ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 6 are available only as 3G (intel Atom based) handsets, while the ZenFone 5 is available as either a 3G (intel Atom based) or 4G (Snapdragon 400 based) handset. The entire range are available as dual-SIM handsets (this is apparently region dependent, but there's no mention of which regions it applies to) and have from 8GB internal storage on the ZenFone 4 up to 16GB on the ZenFone 6. All come with an external microSD card slot. The ZenFone 5 & 6 have Asus' PixelMaster technology which improves low light and other performance from the camera, which is 8MPix on the ZenFone 5 and 13MPix on the ZenFone 6. While it was fairly hard to get meaningful hands-on impressions last night, due to the phones not having SIM cards or configured wireless connectivity and the venue being in nightclub mode (so no meaningful pictures I'm afraid) the handsets all felt well made and solid in the hand, while the displays were bright and vibrant.The ZenFone 4 felt a little portly, mainly due to it being the same thickness (if not slighly thicker) as the ZenFone 5 & 6, which in turn felt more balanced and generally well rounded. To my mind the ZenFone 5 is the sweet spot of the range and certainly the one I think will sell in the largest numbers. UI response was smooth and fast, with Asus' additions and alterations to stock Android not detracting from the overall experience. There was some bloatware installed, but it didn't seem overly intrusive and was the usual Asus fare found on many other of their devices. The camera was nice to use, having been re-skinned from the stock Android camera to something similar to the latest Samsung camera offering. One interesting feature, if only by name, was that turning the flash to permanently on was described as "low light mode". The ZenFone range is available to pre-order from 21st August and will be shipping from 1st September 2014. The ZenFone range are priced as follows: ZenFone 4: £99.99 ZenFone 5: £149.99 (£179.99 for the ZenFone 5 LTE) ZenFone 6: £249.99 More information is available on Asus' website as listed below. Please note that some of the links on the ZenFone 6 page aren't curently working correctly, you'll need to add the page name to the end of the URL already in your address bar. (you'll get the idea) ZenFone 4: ZenFone 5: ZenFone 6:
  4. Warning: Intel ARMs in future Apple kit speculation.