Who's affected by computer chip security flaw

Intel Core i9 Extreme Edition Processor

The Meltdown flaw is less serious and can be patched by software that is already being released by numerous major computer operating systems.

Researchers at Google's Project Zero and academic institutions including the Graz University of Technology in Austria discovered the problem past year and disclosed it Wednesday.

The lawsuits also allege that the patches to fix the vulnerabilities will cause computers to operate more slowly.

Here's a look at what's affected, what's being done about it and whether you should worry. Researchers say one of the bugs, called Meltdown, affects almost every processor Intel has made since the mid-1990s.

Intel's CEO sold shares in his company several months after Google informed the chipmaker of a serious security problem affecting its products. The company says that is "has developed and is rapidly issuing updates for all types of Intel-based computer systems", but it is not clear when - or whether - older devices will be treated to patches. Tech companies typically withhold details about security problems until fixes are available so that hackers wouldn't have a roadmap to exploit the flaws. It was forced to address it earlier because of a Wednesday news report. It may well be true that the average users will not see much of a difference on their home computer, but the impact of Meltdown and Spectre is much more widespread than that. The other, Spectre, is harder to fix, but also harder to exploit, making it less of an immediate threat to consumer devices.

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However, since nearly all of the devices in the world rely on microprocessor architectures designed by either Intel, AMD or ARM, it goes by default that all kinds of devices are affected by the security flaw. The ARM design is also used in Apple's mobile chips.

But Intel said that it had found a fix for 90% of its processors made in the last five years and that the fix will be ready by the end of next week.

The vulnerabilities also affect the cloud systems of Amazon, Google and Apple. It said it planned to publicly disclose the problem next week. The federal organization says that "fully removing the vulnerability" requires replacing the hardware already embedded in millions of computing devices.

Advice from the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team's was grim.

That's not to say nothing can be done.

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