National News

Details on Addressing Security Flaws

Posted January 17, 2018 6:07 p.m. EST

Q: Is it safe to install the Windows patch for these new Spectre and Meltdown bugs? Do they affect Linux? (And who names these security flaws, anyway?)

A: Meltdown and Spectre, the two recently announced security flaws that can expose personal data to hackers, could potentially affect Linux systems, along with computers and devices running Windows, Mac and other operating-system software. These new bugs are actually in the computer’s hardware — specifically, in the central processing unit.

Check Microsoft’s support site for the absolute latest news, but the company previously warned that its updates for Windows 7 and Windows 10 can conflict with certain anti-virus programs; users should contact those software makers about updates. Early reports that the Windows patches were causing severe problems on computers with AMD processors prompted Microsoft to temporarily halt updates to many of those systems for a few days. The software fixes are expected to make the computer run more slowly, but Microsoft has noted that newer processors running Windows 10 should feel the least impact.

The Meltdown vulnerability exists in laptops, desktops and cloud-based computers running most types of Intel processors made since 1995. The Spectre flaw can affect those same systems as well, but also smartphones, tablets and other gadgets running on processors made by other companies, including AMD and ARM.

To find out details for your particular system, Graz University of Technology’s “Meltdown and Spectre” site at https://meltdownattack.com has an extensive collection of links to information about patches from most major hardware and software makers, including several Linux companies. Intel also has a page on its site with links and information about updates.

As for the origin of the names assigned to these bugs, the “Meltdown and Spectre” site has an explanation. Meltdown gets is name because it “basically melts security boundaries which are normally enforced by the hardware.” Spectre’s moniker is “based on the root cause, speculative execution,” and as the researchers note, “As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time.”

Sending Photographs at High Resolution

Q: How do I make sure I am sending a photo at the highest possible resolution when I attach it to an email message on my phone?

A: Before you send the photo, check the image-size settings when you attach the image to the message so you know you have selected a high-resolution picture. If you pick a low-resolution photo from the start, that is what your recipient will get.

To help those with slow connections, limited-data plans or internet provider limits on attachment size, some mobile email apps can reduce the size of a photo attached to a message that’s going out. Choosing the “small” or “medium” size scales the image down, but also reduces the resolution when it arrives at its destination. Smartphone apps vary, but some can automatically resize photos, so check your default settings.

The “large,” “original” or “actual” sizes you may see on the menu create a larger file attachment and take longer to send. However, the recipient gets the photo at a higher resolution. Once the photo is attached to the message, you should see the file size displayed.

As for images attached to text messages, some wireless carriers might compress photos sent by SMS or with certain messaging apps. Some software, like iOS 11 for the iPhone, have an optional setting to automatically reduce the size of images sent with the iMessage service to lower bandwidth consumption.

Desktop email programs like Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail can also resize photos attached to messages you send. For images that exceed your mail server’s size limits, you can also share links to the high-resolution files with tools like Apple’s MailDrop, Gmail using Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive — services that are often integrated into your mail program to do the heavy lifting anyway. Third-party file-sharing services like Box, Dropbox and iDrive have a similar function.