The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Chip Design Flaws Put Computers at Risk

Jan 8, 2018

Computer security researchers at Google discovered two design flaws in processor chips used in the vast majority of today’s tablets, smart phones and personal computers, including devices using both Apple and Microsoft operating systems. Hackers could potentially exploit the flaws to gather passwords and personal information from the devices.

The flaws, which have been named Meltdown and Spectre, affect any device containing processors made by Intel since 1995. The Spectre flaw also affects devices with chips made by AMD and ARM. Together, the three companies produce the chips used in almost all electronic devices.

Manufacturers who used the chips are not about to recall all the devices to replace the flawed chips, so Apple and Microsoft, makers of the most commonly used operating systems on affected devices, are left to create software patches to “fix” the flaws. They have come up with patches for the Meltdown flaw, but once installed, the patches could potentially slow down devices by up to 20 to 30 percent. So far, however, no one has come up with a complete fix to address the Spectre flaw, only partial ones.

Computers and the internet can make life and work easier, in many ways, including speeding up communication and allowing access to loads of information to people around the world.

These newly discovered design flaws, however, show the limits of technology under capitalism. Engineering of systems is left in the hands of corporations seeking short-term profits, with no central planning to prevent or solve problems that might arise.

No one should believe their personal information is safe under these conditions, or that computers and the internet are immune to the problems that plague every other aspect of society under capitalism.