The two problems, called Meltdown and Spectre, could allow hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers, including mobile devices, personal computers and servers running in so-called cloud computer networks.
There is no easy fix for Spectre, which could require redesigning the processors, according to researchers. As for Meltdown, the software patch needed to fix the issue could slow down computers by as much as 30 percent — an ugly situation for people used to fast downloads from their favorite online services.
“What actually happens with these flaws is different and what you do about them is different,” said Paul Kocher, a researcher who was an integral member of a team of researchers at big tech companies like Google and Rambus and in academia that discovered the flaws.
Meltdown is a particular problem for the cloud computing services run by the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft. By Wednesday evening, Google and Microsoft said they had updated their systems to deal with the flaw.
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