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Apple Deploys Mitigations to Contain Meltdown and Spectre

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Apple Inc. AAPL recently announced that Macintosh and iOS-based devices are vulnerable to the recently discovered security issues — Meltdown and Spectre.

The iPhone-maker has already issued mitigations against Meltdown in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2. Notably, the security issue doesn’t affect Apple Watch. Moreover, the company intends to release a patch against Spectre in Safari in the near future.

The security flaws were uncovered by Alphabet’s GOOGL Google division’s Project Zero Researchers. According to them, these vulnerabilities affect most of the CPUs developed by AMD, ARM and Intel Corporation INTC.

Apple shares increased almost 0.5% to close at $173.03 on Jan 4, 2018. The stock has returned 48.5% in the past one-year, much better than S&P 500 index’s rally of 20.2%.



Meltdown Scarier, Spectre Tricky

Meltdown and Spectre take advantage of a modern CPU performance feature called “Speculative execution”, which is basic and avoiding it is extremely difficult and complex.

According to Apple, these security issues exploit the vulnerability to “access privileged memory — including that of the kernel — from a less-privileged user process such as a malicious app running on a device.”

Apple believes that Meltdown, which refers to an exploitation technique known as “rogue data cache load”, has the potential to be compromised by a malicious app. This security issue mostly affects Intel chips.

Meanwhile, Spectre is extremely difficult to exploit but is also trickier to fix. This affects chips from Intel, AMD and ARM.

Patches to Hurt Performance?

There is a widespread concern in the market that software patches as well as firmware updates issued by Apple, Microsoft Corporation MSFT, Google and Intel will hurt performance of the devices.

Apple stated that test results of the mitigations for Meltdown didn’t show any measurable reduction in the performance of Macintosh operating system and iOS, measured by the GeekBench 4, or in common Web browsing benchmarks such as Speedometer, JetStream, and ARES-6.

Similarly, mitigations for Spectre in the upcoming Safari update will have no negative impact on the Speedometer and ARES-6 tests and an impact of less than 2.5% on the JetStream benchmark.

Per Reuters, Intel, Microsoft and Google also expect little to no performance impact from the security updates.

Apple carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

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