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How to Prevent Spectre and Meltdown CPU Flaw Attack

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
This Guided Path® was written and reviewed by Support.com’s Tech Pro team. With decades of experience, our Tech Pros are passionate about making technology work for you. We love feedback! Let us know what you think about this Guided Path by rating it at the end.

spectre meltdown

Two major security issues that affected nearly all computers and many mobile devices was discovered in January 2018. The CPU vulnerabilities, called "Meltdown" and "Spectre", could allow rogue software or an attacker to access private information located in memory. This can include passwords, open browser tabs/windows, and programs that you may be using on your computer.

Fortunately, tech companies rushed to patch these vulnerabilities in Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Your device should already be protected but there's a chance they may not be. We will help you to identify whether or not your laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet is vulnerable. And if not, how to apply the appropriate update.

Update Your Devices to Stop Meltdown

For Windows and Linux, you can check your Spectre and Meltdown vulnerability by navigating to https://www.grc.com/inspectre.htm. Produced by the Gibson Research Corporation, this provides an easy to use download that tells you whether you've been patched or not. It's a lot simpler to use than Microsoft Powershell.

Windows and Linux systems will also need to update their UEFI firmware or BIOS. If you bought a brand computer like a Dell or HP you can navigate to their site and find your UEFI and BIOS update. If you built your own computer, look up the site for your motherboard.

While Spectre and Meltdown have been around for a little while, some devices have not been updated to protect against it.

WindowsPatch Spectre and Meltdown in Windows

Microsoft has issued an emergency security update to supported versions of Windows as of January 3rd, 2018. If you have not already done so, we recommend that you configure Automatic Updates and check for updates.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Update and Security.
    Updates and Security Settings
  3. Select Windows Update on the left, then select Check for updates.
    Update and Security with Windows Update and Check for updates highlighted.
  4. Once the system has finished checking for updates, it will automatically download and install the latest applicable updates.
  5. The system also may prompt you to restart, if it does, please do so at your earliest convenience. Otherwise, the update process will not complete.

    If you system was already recently updated, chances are that no further updates are available and your Update status will indicate: Your device is up to date.

  6. Once you've downloaded and installed the software patch you'll need to research your motherboard. You'll need to use that information to get the UEFI firmware and BIOS update.
ApplePatch Spectre and Meltdown on an Apple Mac

Apple has released an update in macOS 10.13.2 that mitigates this security vulnerability. If you're updated to 10.13.2, you're protected. If you have not already done so, we recommend that you configure Automatic Updates and check for updates.

Make Sure Automatic Updates is On

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Software Update.
    Software Update Preferences
  3. Any updates for the macOS Operating System will be shown here. Make sure Automatically keep my Mac up to date is checked. You can also see the macOS version.
    Software Update Preferences with Automatically keep my Mac up to date.

MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air must have the power adapter plugged in to automatically download updates.

Check for Updates

After making sure Automatic Updates is on, you can run updates to make sure everything is up to date.

  1. Select the Apple menu, then App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. You will now see the app store pull up and can select Updates.
    App Store side bar with Updates highlighted.
  3. If your Mac is running 10.13 High Sierra or earlier Updates is on the top right.
    App store menu bar with Updates highlighted.

Any version of macOS 10.7 (Lion) or older can check for available updates through the Apple Menu and Software Updates.

AndroidPatch Spectre and Meltdown on an Android phone or tablet

Google released an update in early January, 2018 that will help mitigate issues with Meltdown. If you have an Android phone that is Google branded (Pixel 2, Nexus 5X, etc), you already have the update. If you have at least the January 5, 2018 Android security patch, you are protected.

The Android OS can be updated manually by following the next steps.

Before proceeding with a system update, make sure that the battery level of your device is sufficient. This is best done while the battery level is at least 80%, or better when plugged in to the power outlet.

  1. Open Settings on your phone or tablet.
    Android Settings.
  2. Scroll to the bottom, and select About.
    Android about phone selection
  3. Select System update.
    Android system update
  4. You'll see if there's any updates available, as well as when your device last checked for updates. If you wish, you can choose Check for update to make sure.
    An up to date android system checking for updates
  5. If an update is available, you can download and install it here.
    Do not turn off your phone during an update, it can result in serious problems that would require a qualified technician to fix.
ApplePatch Spectre and Meltdown on an iPhone or iPad

All iOS devices were affected by this vulnerability. Apple has released an update in iOS 11.2 that mitigates the security flaw. You likely already have the update. Because of security issues like this, it is important to regularly check for updates.

To check which version of iOS is installed on your device, follow the next steps:

  1. Open Settings on your phone or tablet.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Select General.
    iOS general settings
  3. Select Software Update to see if there’s an update available.
    iOS software update
  4. Make sure Automatic Updates is set to On, and that you have at least iOS 11.2.
    iOS device is up to date
  5. If there is an update available, ensure that you plug your iOS device into power before proceeding. 
  6. Select Download and Install. You may have to Select Install a second time. If prompted, enter your passcode.

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spectre meltdown

Two major security issues that affected nearly all computers and many mobile devices was discovered in January 2018. The CPU vulnerabilities, called "Meltdown" and "Spectre", could allow rogue software or an attacker to access private information located in memory. This can include passwords, open browser tabs/windows, and programs that you may be using on your computer.

Fortunately, tech companies rushed to patch these vulnerabilities in Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Your device should already be protected but there's a chance they may not be. We will help you to identify whether or not your laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet is vulnerable. And if not, how to apply the appropriate update.

Update Your Devices to Stop Meltdown

For Windows and Linux, you can check your Spectre and Meltdown vulnerability by navigating to https://www.grc.com/inspectre.htm. Produced by the Gibson Research Corporation, this provides an easy to use download that tells you whether you've been patched or not. It's a lot simpler to use than Microsoft Powershell.

Windows and Linux systems will also need to update their UEFI firmware or BIOS. If you bought a brand computer like a Dell or HP you can navigate to their site and find your UEFI and BIOS update. If you built your own computer, look up the site for your motherboard.

While Spectre and Meltdown have been around for a little while, some devices have not been updated to protect against it.

WindowsPatch Spectre and Meltdown in Windows

Microsoft has issued an emergency security update to supported versions of Windows as of January 3rd, 2018. If you have not already done so, we recommend that you configure Automatic Updates and check for updates.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Update and Security.
    Updates and Security Settings
  3. Select Windows Update on the left, then select Check for updates.
    Update and Security with Windows Update and Check for updates highlighted.
  4. Once the system has finished checking for updates, it will automatically download and install the latest applicable updates.
  5. The system also may prompt you to restart, if it does, please do so at your earliest convenience. Otherwise, the update process will not complete.

    If you system was already recently updated, chances are that no further updates are available and your Update status will indicate: Your device is up to date.

  6. Once you've downloaded and installed the software patch you'll need to research your motherboard. You'll need to use that information to get the UEFI firmware and BIOS update.
ApplePatch Spectre and Meltdown on an Apple Mac

Apple has released an update in macOS 10.13.2 that mitigates this security vulnerability. If you're updated to 10.13.2, you're protected. If you have not already done so, we recommend that you configure Automatic Updates and check for updates.

Make Sure Automatic Updates is On

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Software Update.
    Software Update Preferences
  3. Any updates for the macOS Operating System will be shown here. Make sure Automatically keep my Mac up to date is checked. You can also see the macOS version.
    Software Update Preferences with Automatically keep my Mac up to date.

MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air must have the power adapter plugged in to automatically download updates.

Check for Updates

After making sure Automatic Updates is on, you can run updates to make sure everything is up to date.

  1. Select the Apple menu, then App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. You will now see the app store pull up and can select Updates.
    App Store side bar with Updates highlighted.
  3. If your Mac is running 10.13 High Sierra or earlier Updates is on the top right.
    App store menu bar with Updates highlighted.

Any version of macOS 10.7 (Lion) or older can check for available updates through the Apple Menu and Software Updates.

AndroidPatch Spectre and Meltdown on an Android phone or tablet

Google released an update in early January, 2018 that will help mitigate issues with Meltdown. If you have an Android phone that is Google branded (Pixel 2, Nexus 5X, etc), you already have the update. If you have at least the January 5, 2018 Android security patch, you are protected.

The Android OS can be updated manually by following the next steps.

Before proceeding with a system update, make sure that the battery level of your device is sufficient. This is best done while the battery level is at least 80%, or better when plugged in to the power outlet.

  1. Open Settings on your phone or tablet.
    Android Settings.
  2. Scroll to the bottom, and select About.
    Android about phone selection
  3. Select System update.
    Android system update
  4. You'll see if there's any updates available, as well as when your device last checked for updates. If you wish, you can choose Check for update to make sure.
    An up to date android system checking for updates
  5. If an update is available, you can download and install it here.
    Do not turn off your phone during an update, it can result in serious problems that would require a qualified technician to fix.
ApplePatch Spectre and Meltdown on an iPhone or iPad

All iOS devices were affected by this vulnerability. Apple has released an update in iOS 11.2 that mitigates the security flaw. You likely already have the update. Because of security issues like this, it is important to regularly check for updates.

To check which version of iOS is installed on your device, follow the next steps:

  1. Open Settings on your phone or tablet.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Select General.
    iOS general settings
  3. Select Software Update to see if there’s an update available.
    iOS software update
  4. Make sure Automatic Updates is set to On, and that you have at least iOS 11.2.
    iOS device is up to date
  5. If there is an update available, ensure that you plug your iOS device into power before proceeding. 
  6. Select Download and Install. You may have to Select Install a second time. If prompted, enter your passcode.