Spectre and Meltdown - Is Your Computer Vulnerable to Attack - What You Need to Know
CPU Flaw - Spectre AND Meltdown
Don't Be Caught With Your Guard Down
Your computer's processor, the most important component you likely never think about, maybe under attack right now - take action if you haven't already!
Two new vulnerabilities considered processor flaws, identified on January 3rd, may leave your computer at risk for security attacks. They go by the names, Spectre and Meltdown.
If you aren't aware, your processor is the most vital component of your computer. Why, you ask? The processor runs all of the most critical processes done on your computer. Additionally, the processor contains all of the sensitive data, like your passwords and encryption keys. Your processor holds the keys to your Computer Kingdom and you must guard it at all costs. Leaving your computer unprotected or vulnerable could result in a grave security issue for you.
Like many computer security issues, it is urgent that you understand the impact these chip flaws can have on your computer and how to effectively fix it. First, you need to have a grasp on the potential security concerns. In this case we are not dealing with a virus but a flaw in the processor chip design. Second, what action is being taken to correct these flaws or in this case, the flaw that can allow the computer creepers, aka hackers, in to your system should they happen to find their way in.
First, it is important to understand why our computer processors are vulnerable at the point of these flaws. There are three major processor chip companies involved; Intel, AMD, and Arm. These companies are working to fix the vulnerabilities that could leave us open to attack.
Second, you need to understand how these vulnerabilities affect us and how to recognize how to protect yourself. Your computer processor has considerable weaknesses that make it a target. The central processing unit, or CPU, houses very sensitive information and at brief times it will make this information available outside the CPU. This is when a computer beast can strike and steal your information.
Not getting into the long drawn out explanations as to how sophisticated these processor creepers are, what they do is play a guessing game with your CPU. Your CPU runs what is called speculative execution, in order to make your computer run faster. The computer processor chip will guess as to what information will be needed for its next function and gets ready to release it. It is at this point the sensitive data is vulnerable to attack, and these Computer Gremlins have capitalized on this vulnerability.
The Scoop On MELTDOWN and SPECTRE
Let's be clear, MELTDOWN and SPECTRE are not viruses, they are flaws in the CPUs chip that can be discovered and exploited by hackers.
Spectre reportedly lets the computer creepers trick the CPU into beginning the speculative execution process then, voila', the attack is on. The hackers now have access to your sensitive data guessing the next process the computer will carry out.
Meltdown is a slightly different flaw that exploits the computer's own operating system such as Microsoft Windows or Apple's High Sierra. The attackers will access your sensitive information through sanctioned processes right through your PC. These are called "side-channel" attacks because they are pulled off during regular operations by your computer.
Is there hope on the horizon?
What are the chip manufacturers doing?
Intel has assured consumers that all Intel-powered processors and servers will have fixes in the coming weeks. Approximately 90% of the chips released in the last five years will have a fix by January 13 and chips released in the last ten years will have a fix in the following weeks.
Microsoft has been quick to respond and provided patches for Windows Operating Systems, Internet Explorer, and it's Edge browsers. Be warned however that you may need to update your antivirus software to capture the latest patches released by Microsoft.
Apple has announced a fix for the Meltdown flaw directed at it's operating systems on Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Apple reports that neither flaw affects the Apple watch. Consumers can expect a patch to be released for the Safari browser in the coming days that is targeted at the Meltdown flaw, to prevent exploitation of this weakness and hijacking of sensitive information. More patches will be released shortly after that. Apple has already released its patch updates for the Spectre flaw for all iPhones and iPads.
So, Is this Something New?
The presence of these flaws is not new, it has been present for about 20 years! Interestingly, it wasn't discovered until 2017. There have been no significant security breaches because of these flaws but now that the hackers are aware of the flaws, it does open the doors to serious security breaches. Again this is not a virus or a computer code issue, it is merely how the computer chips are designed.
What Can You Do To Prevent An Attack?
Your First Line of Defense
- Keep your Antivirus up-to-date.
- Malware! For one of these computer creepers, aka Hackers, to get into your computer via one of these flaws, they first need to install software on your computer (Malware). How is this done? These are brought in via computer viruses or unwanted spyware. Hackers can be prevented in the first place by following appropriate antivirus and anti-spam protocols. AND of course,
- As you see updates related to these chip fixes be sure that you install them ASAP.
- Keep software up-to-date
- Whenever you are suspect run your security software. Scan now and see if you are affected.
- Say "No" to phishing!! Don't buy into email schemes. Deals that seem to good to be true, almost always are and are the number one way these computer creepers get their needed software downloaded onto your computer.