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Apple devices are already protected against Meltdown without any hit to performance

Image: Computerworld.com
Image: Computerworld.com
With the massive vulnerabilities recently discovered in Intel CPUs, the main question on everyone's minds are when affected devices will be updated to guard against possible exploits. Apple is ahead of the game; apparently, the latest versions of their various operating systems protect against Meltdown, and a fix for Spectre is coming to Safari in the next few days. The best part? These mitigations have no perceptible effect on performance.

Apple is known for pushing the envelope in hardware, but it looks like they may be ahead of the game in security with the latest computer threat. In a press release earlier today, Apple asserted that the latest versions of their various operating systems (iOS, macOS, and tvOS) already have mitigations in place to guard against Meltdown, and a patch for Spectre will be released in the coming days. These fixes also shouldn't affect performance in any measurable way.

In case you've been living under a rock the past few weeks, two recent design flaws were discovered that left millions of Intel-based devices (among others) insecure. The two flaws, dubbed "Meltdown" and "Spectre," allow for various exploits at the hardware level and can leave affected systems open to malicious attacks. 

Apple stated today that while most of its devices are indeed vulnerable to the two exploits, the most recent OS updates included mitigations that guard against Meltdown. On top of that, Apple says that these workarounds come with no reduction in performance. This is significant because some security researchers have said that fixes against the exploits are possible but will likely come at the cost of performance.

Keep in mind that the mitigations are only found in the latest updates (which were available at various times in December). If you have an Apple device other than the Apple Watch running older software, your device is still vulnerable to Meltdown.

Apple said that a fix for Spectre would be released for the Safari web browser on both macOS and iOS in the next few days. Why Safari? Apple's analysis states that while Spectre is difficult to exploit by local apps running on an Apple system, malicious JavaScript in a browser may be able to exploit the flaw. Mirroring the fixes found in the December OS updates, Apple is asserting that this update brings a minimal impact on performance (less than 2.5% performance reduction in Jetstream). 

Owners of the Apple Watch can rest easy; watchOS is completely unaffected by either Spectre or Meltdown.

Apple's quick response and slick fix may push some business toward the Cupertino company. Other manufacturers have yet to release statements detailing patches or action of any kind.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 01 > Apple devices are already protected against Meltdown without any hit to performance
Sam Medley, 2018-01- 5 (Update: 2018-01- 9)
Sam Medley
Sam Medley - Review Editor - @samuel_medley
I've been a "tech-head" my entire life. After graduating college with a degree in Mathematics, I worked in finance and banking a few years before taking a job as a Systems Analyst for my local school district. I started working with Notebookcheck in October of 2016 and have enjoyed writing news articles and notebook reviews. My areas of interest include the business side of technology, retro gaming, Linux, and innovative gadgets. When I'm not hunched over an electronic device or writing code for a new database, I'm either outside with my family, playing a decade-old video game, or sitting behind a drum set.