Apple’s ended its silence over Meltdown and Spectre, the two bugs which have been secretly residing inside nearly all modern processors for the past 20 years. The company’s confirmed that all Mac systems and iOS devices are affected by the security issue.
Before you panic, Apple’s reassuring customers that there aren’t any known exploits which have impacted people yet. It also points out that using Meltdown and Spectre to hack a device requires a malicious app to be installed into your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. You should be safe so long as you download all your applications from the App Store.
You might have noticed that the Apple Watch is conspicuously absent from the Meltdown list. That’s because the smartwatch is not affected by Meltdown. The brand also delved into the background for both Meltdown and Spectre, stating that the two take advantage of a modern CPU performance feature called speculative execution.
Speculative execution speeds things up by taking up multiple instructions at once. The CPU basically predicts which path of a branch is the most likely to be followed and then continue down that road before the branch is completed. Malicious apps can abuse this technique to get access to privileged memory.
Reports so far have indicated that workarounds to stop access will result in performance slowdowns. Apple is refuting these notions for the most part, claiming that it tested macOS and iOS with Geekbench 4, Speedometer, ARES-6, and JetStream and didn’t find any reduction in performance after it applied the Meltdown patch.
Apple did concede a less than 2.5% slowdown in JetStream after the Spectre patch for the Safari browser though. More fixes are due in upcoming iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS releases, so make sure you install them as soon as they’re available.