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How the Spectre and Meltdown Hacks Really Worked


An in-depth look at these dangerous exploitations of microprocessor vulnerabilities and why there might be more of them out there

13 min read
Illustration: Erik Vrielink
Illustration: Erik Vrielink

We're used to thinking of computer processors as orderly machines that proceed from one simple instruction to the next with complete regularity. But the truth is, that for decades now, they've been doing their tasks out of order and just guessing at what should come next. They're very good at it, of course. So good in fact, that this ability, called speculative execution, has underpinned much of the improvement in computing power during the last 25 years or so. But on 3 January 2018, the world learned that this trick, which had done so much for modern computing, was now one of its greatest vulnerabilities.

Throughout 2017, researchers at Cyberus Technology, Google Project Zero, Graz University of Technology, Rambus, University of Adelaide, and University of Pennsylvania, as well as independent researchers such as cryptographer Paul Kocher, separately worked out attacks that took advantage of speculative execution. Our own group had discovered the original vulnerability behind one of these attacks back in 2016, but we did not put all the pieces together.

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Medal of Honor Goes to Microsensor and Systems Pioneer

The UCLA professor developed aerospace and automotive safety systems

3 min read
Photo of a man in a blue jacket in front of a brick wall.
UCLA Samueli School of Engineering

IEEE Life Fellow Asad M. Madni is the recipient of this year’s IEEE Medal of Honor. He is being recognized “for pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of innovative sensing and systems technologies, and for distinguished research leadership.”

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Video Friday: An Agile Year

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
Video Friday: An Agile Year

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):

ICRA 2022: 23–27 May 2022, Philadelphia
ERF 2022: 28–30 June 2022, Rotterdam, Germany
CLAWAR 2022: 12–14 September 2022, Açores, Portugal

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

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Learn How to Use a High-Performance Digitizer

Join Teledyne for a three-part webinar series on high-performance data acquisition basics

1 min read

Webinar: High-Performance Digitizer Basics

Part 3: How to Use a High-Performance Digitizer

Date: Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Time: 10 AM PST | 1 PM EST

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