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Here's What You Need To Know About The 'Meltdown' And 'Spectre' Bugs

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Here's What You Need To Know About The 'Meltdown' And 'Spectre' Bugs
A computer chip flaw affects nearly every device made since 1995.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Experts have discovered a pretty major flaw in computer chips, and if you're watching this, chances are the flaw affects you.

On Wednesday, Google publicly announced the existence of "Meltdown" and "Spectre"— two vulnerabilities that affect the central processing units of nearly every device made since 1995, regardless of the company that made it.

The Graz University of Technology explains that Meltdown works by "melting" the isolation between the operating system and user applications. Spectre works by tricking other applications into accessing its memory. Either vulnerability allows malicious programs to acquire data stored in the memory of running programs. This can include passwords, emails and critical documents.

Of the two, Spectre is said to be harder to exploit, but that means it's also harder to fix. 

Tech companies are already releasing patches as temporary safeguards, but those patches could slow down machines, leaving users to choose between security and speed. And The Verge notes Spectre's real damage could come if it's used to target cloud platforms.

Going forward, vulnerable chips may have to be physically replaced en masse.