Will my computer ‘Meltdown’ by a ‘Spectre’?

Seems to be a lot of coverage around these new vulnerabilities. What’s all the fuss about?

This is a legit vulnerability and there are no known instances of an exploit yet although vendors have tested in their labs and proved the concept.

Here’s a basic description of what each one of these vulnerabilities do:

Spectre let would the attacker trick the processor into starting a speculative execution process. This concept is similar to predictive keyboard typing. The computer will run a bit faster as the CPU will essentially trying to guess/predict what function is needing to be performed next. Then the attacker will extract info from the processor as it tries to do this while trying to divert the prediction outside of what it is supposed to be predicting.

Meldown is slightly different. In that, it could allow the info leak through the Operating system. This also means that servers in the cloud services that run on the processor are susceptible.

So who or what type of systems are affected?

All Intel based AMD based systems are affected whether this is a server, computer, smartphone etc. Intel has claimed that 90% of its new product line will be fixed as this week come to a close. AMD is having a bit more difficulty in that they do not conform to the documentation previously provided to Microsoft to develop the Windows operating system mitigation to protect against the chipset vulnerabilities like these. Microsoft is now having to stop these updates being received by users since the recent patch/update is preventing certain older AMD based computers from starting up. Basically, a boot up failure.

I’ve already patched my systems since Intel has released the patch. Android based devices, have already started with the patching applications first. They have yet to confirm release of firmware update for their systems.

The Good News

The good news is that on both these type of attacks hackers would first need to install malicious piece of software on the affected computer to make use of this vulnerability and extract the info. This makes exploiting this vulnerability quite difficult.

What to look out for?

  • Update your systems where possible. Update for MS systems are already available for download from Windows 10 through to Windows 7 and Windows server 2008 to 2016. This will include the Internet Explorer and Edge browser updates as well.
  • Update your Apple based devices. (Update is 10.13.2, iOS 11.2)
  • For Android based systems, keep an eye out for updates for both applications and firmware.
  • Update Google Chrome

Final thoughts..

Performing the update on various devices, I have already seen a performance hit on them. This part is quite subjective but I believe, sacrificing the performance for security is justified.

Attack vectors like phishing emails, un-patched (un-updated) Operating systems or applications would probably be the easiest entry points. So, I’d be looking out for these types of attacks and expect a rise. Since chipmakers have already proved this vulnerability works by publicly making the design flaw available, there may be more instances of this type of attack coming soon or even variants. Keep an eye out.

If you found this useful, then spread the word 🙂

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