One fine day, a 31-year-old information security researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Austria’s Graz Technical University named Daniel Gruss decided to hack his own computer. Little did he know, he would end up discovering the worst chip flaw in the history of technological innovations! That day, Gruss was both, shocked and glad at having breached his computer’s central processing unit (CPU) and steal his own secrets.
Until that moment, Gruss along with his colleagues, Mortiz Lipp and Michael Schwarz never thought that such a thing was even possible. The processor’s ‘kernel’ memory was so secured that it was technically impossible to actually hack it and gain access to personal information. They discovered a theoretical way to hack the CPU’s kernel memory and turns out, it even worked.
In an email interview with Reuters, Gruss went on to state, “When I saw my private website addresses from Firefox being dumped by the tool I wrote, I was really shocked. He went on to describe how he had unlocked personal data that should have been initially secured but after carrying out hacking attempts, he had managed to reach where he ideally shouldn’t have been able to.
“We sat for hours in disbelief until we eliminated any possibility that this result was wrong,” said Gruss. After realizing the intensity of the problem, Gruss along with his colleagues decided to publicly confirm the existence of such a problem. Gruss describes the flaw as being “one of the worst CPU bugs ever found.”
The flaw, which is now called Meltdown, was revealed on Wednesday, 3rd January 2018. It was discovered then that the problem was affecting most processors manufactured by Intel since back in 1995. They also went on to discover another defect that now goes by the name of ‘Spectre.’ According to them, Spectre ends up exposing core memory in most computers and mobile devices running on chips manufactured by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and ARM Holdings.