Apple Warns Billions Of Customers That ‘Design Flaws’ Could Expose Sensitive Data To Hackers

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The iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers owned by billions of Apple consumers worldwide are in danger of being hacked due to a potentially devastating security flaw.

No, Meltdown and Spectre are not titles of James Bond films. They are bugs that are reportedly 20-years-old but have only recently been discovered. The Silicone Valley giant announced last night that every single Apple device running either iOS or macOS operating systems are currently compromised. The tech giant added that owners of Apple TV’s are also affected.

According to a report by The Telegraph, owners of Apple devices are at risk of potentially being the target of a hacking onslaught that would see secret data such as passwords, photos, financial records, and emails exposed to criminals.

Thus far, the Meltdown bug issue has been partially fixed with an update that was released in December. Apple officials clarified that there had been no evidence that hackers managed to take advantage of the security flaw.

Spectre, on the other hand, is allegedly much more challenging to solve. The ARM microchips installed in recent iPhones and iPads are the primary carriers of the Spectre bug.

According to a statement issued by Apple representatives, “researchers have recently uncovered security issues known by two names, Meltdown and Spectre. These issues apply to all modern processors and affect nearly all computing devices and operating systems.”

Technology specialists have reportedly been working on creating bug fixes since the flaws were discovered last year. Intel, ARM, and AMD were informed of the problem at the time, and they have their experts and researchers frantically trying to find ways to beat the bugs.

Meanwhile, technicians for web browsers such as Google Chrome and Apple’s own Safari have also been scrambling to find solutions to the significant problem.

While tech companies and manufacturers are currently in the process of updating operating systems, browsers, and antivirus software, these measures aren’t enough to put an end to the scare. The Telegraph notes that experts have said Spectre is a particularly pernicious bug and is likely to remain a problem for years to come.

Two bugs dubbed Meltdown and Spectre could leak sensitive data such as passwords, photos and emails, a group of security experts have warned
Former Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs seen with Intel Corp CEO Paul Otellini after announcing Apple's historic shift to Intel microprocessors.Featured image credit: Paul SakumaAP Images

In tech terms, bugs are errors, failures or faults in computer hardware or software that lead to incorrect, unintended or unexpected behaviors that expose an infected product to external attacks by hackers. If cybercriminals manage to access a consumer’s device, they could easily find and exploit system flaws to retrieve sensitive personal data.

Apple Inc. asserts that it takes the matter of device security very seriously. One of the measures the company prides itself on is the App Store, which is a marketplace for consumers to purchase and download third-party applications. All products available in the App Store are approved by Apple Inc. before they are introduced to the marketplace.

Moreover, Apple software updates are known for their superior restrictions that have historically offered better protection against viruses than competitors such as Android and Windows.

According to Lukasz Olejnik, an independent tech security and privacy consultant, “one of the most serious threats to ordinary users could be exploitation via JavaScript code on websites. Exploiting the vulnerability on websites seems to be the most realistic attack scenario especially for tightly-controlled ecosystems where normally apps are rarely installed and are installed only from approved sources.”

Luckily, according to Reuters, Apple Inc. is planning to release a bug fix for the Safari web browser on its iPhones, iPads, and Mac devices in the next few days. The critical software update is intended to protect devices against Spectre, according to a spokesperson for the company.

“In the coming days we plan to release mitigations in Safari to help defend against Spectre. We continue to develop and test further mitigations for these issues and will release them in upcoming updates of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.”

In the meantime, consumers have been urged to ensure that their devices have the very latest software updates installed, as well as to keep an eye out to see when the next update becomes available. Customers should also be extra vigilant when accessing unknown websites and when installing new apps or programs onto their devices.