Making Sense of the Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

I’m sure by now many of you have heard the words Meltdown and Spectre. No Meltdown isn’t referencing a catastrophic nuclear meltdown. Oh, and Spectre isn’t referencing the Daniel Craig Bond film from 2015. Meltdown and Spectre respectively are two vulnerabilities affecting an overwhelming majority of PCs, laptops, Mac’s, phones, tablets, etc. 

As many of you have. I have been trying to make sense of the flood of information out there about Meltdown and Spectre. What is it, how can it affect me, and how do I fix it? I’ll answer these questions in todays post. 

What is Meltdown and Spectre?

Meltdown and Spectre are vulnerabilities that exploit a decades old flaw in your devices CPU (processor). The flaw is found in many current and former generations of Intel processor. Both Intel and AMD processors have been identified in this vulnerability.

The vulnerability when exploited can allow a hacker deploying malicious code via your web browser to access data that is currently in use on your device. This means that data stored on your hard drive isn’t necessarily available to the would be hacker. However, any data currently in use (open word documents, stored passwords for logged in websites, etc.) is available for exploitation. 

What Should I Do?

Patch, patch, patch is the word from all the big tech companies. Browsers like Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Firefox have all released updates to harden their security to help protect against these vulnerabilities. In addition your operating system (Windows 7,8,8.1,10, Mac OS, iOS, Android, Linux, etc) either has or will be releasing patches to correct this issue. Unfortunately as pointed out by Microsoft, their will be some impact on performance. Now this doesn’t mean that you should not patch your computer. Having a slightly slower computer is much better than having a computer at risk of your sensitive data getting into the wrong hands. I’ve posted a list of resources at the bottom of this article for more information about the performance issues as well as links to other articles related to Meltdown and Spectre. 

Final Thoughts

Cyber security is a big deal in today’s world. Threats like these have happened before and will happen again. Always be sure you keep up to date with patches from both your device manufacturer as well as operating system updates from Apple, Google, Microsoft etc.  

We will undoubtedly be hindered from time to time by these updates and changes in the way we do things in this connected world, but it is necessary to keep up to date with our patches and updates. Most importantly, always stay vigilant at all times when online. 

If you have any questions or concerns about these vulnerabilities, please feel free to reach out to me via email jason@meadowmttech.com 

Happy (and safe) Computing,

Jason

Reference Links