There has been a lot in the press recently about a security problem identified in nearly every Intel processor produced over the past 20 years. Should you be worried about the flaw? The answer is both yes and no. The flaw that was discovered could allow data to be pulled directly from the processor. Since the data at risk has to be in the processor, data at rest like your documents, and spreadsheets will be unaffected unless you are working on them. Data like logins and passwords would be prime targets for the malware. So far, there are no known attacks that have targeted this flaw. The degree of difficulty in writing the software to take advantage of the flaw will be difficult and will require a skill set only few programmers have. Expect nations to invest the money to develop the code first, and criminals to have the code in 12 to 24 months. While serious, the Intel flaw is less serious than being behind on Windows patching is for most PCs.
The Intel “patch” will involve two parts. The first is a patch that will be released from Microsoft that will prevent the attack through the operating system. The second “patch” will be a firmware upgrade specific to your computer. Due to the complexity of applying firmware patches, many machines will go unpatched. Computers older than five years old will probably never get the firmware level patch. Since the vast majority of devices with Intel processors will never get their firmware upgraded, the Intel flaw will be a problem for many years to come.