Criminals may be able to see your data.

The Bottom Line

Every computer has a processor which processes information.  If your computer has a processor manufactured by Intel it is highly likely that it would be possible for criminals to see sensitive information on your computer.  User names, passwords, credit card numbers and any other information being processed would be at risk.  If your computer has an Intel processor, you should have your computer checked to see if it is possible to make it safe to use securely. Otherwise it could be unsafe for you to use your computer to purchase items online, log in to sensitive websites or to do anything else secure.

The Details

Researchers announced a set of vulnerabilities in January 2018, one of which they named “Specter”, that existed on processors manufactured after 1996.  Processors manufactured by Intel were the hardest hit by Specter.  Intel quickly announced that they would create “patches” for most processors manufactured after 2011.  But with new variants of the vulnerability discovered in May, July and again in August that same year, the possibilities of end users acquiring the necessary patches to make their computers safe grow dim.

In May 2019 researchers announced yet another vulnerability in their processors they called Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS), that could further allow criminals to see sensitive information on your computer.

Many newer Intel processors are not impacted by MDS and Specter attacks.  Nevertheless it would be best practice to check and see if your computer was manufactured prior to 2019.