Metldown & Spectre is this 2018's biggest security flaw?2 min read

As you may be aware of recent news articles and press coverage two significant flaws called Meltdown and Spectre, which affect Intel and ARM-based computer processors.

What is Meltdown?

Meltdown (CVE-2017-5754) allows a malicious a program to access RAM on a system; this means confidential information stored in a computer memory chip could be obtained and leaked. In the case of virtualised systems, such an application could peek into other virtual servers. This compromise bypasses common security boundaries that prevent software from interfering with the rest of a computer system.

What is Spectre?

Spectre (CVE-2017-5753) allows an attacker to trick programs into leaking their secrets. For example, it would let a program view what you type into a web browser or extract information held in a database application. However, it wouldn’t allow a program to read encrypted security keys or network traffic directly.

What is Lanmark doing about this?

Our technical team are working with vendors to ensure our systems remain as secure as possible. As vendors release updates, Lanmark will review these much in the same way as we do our current client patching process. All devices that are managed by Lanmark under a support agreement that includes patch management will get the patches applied.

What do I need to know and why should I care?

All major vendors have been working for some time on patches. And at the time of writing this post, there is no known record of these exploits, however, this may well change over time given that these flaws are now in the public domain.

Some of the fixes needed to resolve these issues could affect hardware performance because both exploits are processor hardware level. Which puts any subsequent hardware effect of patches outside of the control of software and hardware vendors like Microsoft, Apple etc.

Initial testing with public benchmarks has shown that the changes updates resulted in no noticeable reduction in the performance of modern computer systems in the last 12 months. However, this is not conclusive, and it is likely that older or less powerful systems will experience a performance impact.

Is there anything I can do?

Devices that are managed by Lanmark do not need any immediate actions on your part. However, it’s worth refreshing yourself on the following guidelines:

 

  • Never download unknown or unapproved software from the internet.  If in doubt, check with our helpdesk.
  • Never open unsolicited attachments in emails, even if it’s from a known email address.
  • Always pay attention when Windows prompts to restart to apply updates – certain patches and fixes have no effect until the system is rebooted.

Finally, owners of smartphones or tablets are urged to apply any pending updates they may have as well as using the app store to update any apps.  You can expect a flurry of updates for various devices over the coming weeks.