Specter and Meltdown – what you need to know

Specter and Meltdown are the names of two serious security flaws that have been found within computer processors have dominated the tech space over the past months. The processor bugs can allow hackers to steal sensitive data without users knowing nothing about what is been stolen. Meltdown was independently discovered and reported by three teams, including Jann Horn from Google’s Project Zero, Werner Haas and Thomas Prescher from Cyberus Technology and Daniel Gruss, Moritz Lipp, Stefan Mangard and Michael Schwarz from Graz University of Technology in Austria. So know where you stand on the safety ladder, so you know how to deal with your information security wise.

What are Specter and Meltdown?

Meltdown is a security flaw that could allow hackers to bypass the hardware barrier between applications run by users and the computer’s core memory, which is normally highly protected. Specter is slightly different. It potentially allows hackers to trick otherwise error-free applications into giving up secret information.

What devices are at risk?

Practically every computing device can be affected by Specter, including laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones and even cloud computing systems. A few lower power devices, such as certain Internet of Things gadgets, are safe for now. Specter affects all modern processors, including those designed by Intel, AMD and ARM, but Meltdown is currently thought only to affect Intel chips manufactured since 1995, with the exception of the Itanium and Atom chips made before 2013.

How serious are they?

Yes. Meltdown is “probably one of the worst CPU bugs ever found” according to Daniel Gruss, one of the researchers at Graz University of Technology who discovered the flaw. It is very serious in the short term and needs immediate attention. The problem with Meltdown is that anything that runs as an application could in theory steal your data, including simple things such as JavaScript from a web page viewed in a browser. Specter, on the other hand, is harder for hackers to take advantage of but is also more difficult to fix and is expected to be a bigger problem in the long term.

What are their effects?

As said earlier these two bugs are the open window for any hacker’s attack to the core of your computer system. The core system, known as the kernel, stores all types of sensitive information in memory. This means banking records, credit cards, financial data, communications, logins, passwords and secret information are all at risk due to Meltdown. Specter can be used to trick normal applications into giving up sensitive data, which potentially means anything processed by an application can be stolen, including passwords and other data – like picture taken with any mobile application.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Well! Sorry to say you cant any thing about it these two bugs – maybe you thought about antivirus update or a new one, sorry it cant protect you. The little you can do to avoid the security flaws is to update your computer’s operating system to the one with the latest security fixes as soon as possible. Fixes for Linux and Windows are already available. Chromebooks updated to Chrome OS 63, which started rolling out in mid-December, are already protected.

Android devices running the latest security update, including Google’s Nexus and Pixel smartphones, are already protected. Updates are expected to be delivered soon for users of other devices that updates are to be pushed out by third-party manufacturers, includes Samsung, Huawei and other mobile brands.

Apple advised their customers in a blog post to update their devices’ operating systems and only download software from “trusted sources such as the App Store”. The company also said that “there are no known exploits impacting customers at this time”.

For those who are join in someway to cloud systems, fix are on their way as Google, AWS and Microsoft are all taking action to release fix for meltdown and specter soon.

credits: The Guardian, 



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Pc Boss

I publish articles about everyday tech, gives tutorials on web design and more. I've designed 1001 websites and counting. Get in touch with me on social media via pcbossonlie.

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