On Wednesday, January 3rd, two CPU bugs were discovered that could impact billions of devices worldwide. These two security flaws, known as Meltdown and Spectre, target most computer processing systems making it possible for attackers to steal sensitive data – including passwords, banking information, and encrypted communications.
Meltdown and Spectre: What Are These New Security Flaws?
Let’s start with Meltdown. Affecting Intel processors, Meltdown enables attackers to bypass the hardware barrier between applications that are being run and the computer’s memory – allowing for them to read a computer’s memory and steal passwords.
Spectre, on the other hand, breaks the isolation between different applications allowing attackers to essentially trick those applications into giving up valuable information. Spectre’s impact is larger given it affects Intel, AMD, and ARM processors. This expands its reach to include a multitude of devices, essentially anything with a chip in it.
Combined, these two bugs affect virtually every modern computer, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, and PCs from all vendors, running almost any operating system.
What steps can be taken to reduce the risk of being exposed to these two bugs?
Three steps your organization can take to reduce the risk of being impacted by these two security flaws are to patch your systems with the latest update, monitor CPU usage, and continue to keep an eye on this evolving threat.
- Patch Your Systems
Patch Management is an essential part of securing your IT infrastructure. Meltdown and Spectre can impact devices running just about any operating system – including Windows, Mac, and Linux – or application leaving just about every organization at risk. Intel and ARM have issued patches that they deem will make your systems immune to these two bugs – but this requires users to download a patch and update their operating system to fix. If you have not already applied the necessary patches, make sure to do so as soon as possible.
- Monitor CPU Usage
Because these two bugs target CPUs, be sure to continuously monitor CPU usage on all machines in your ecosystem. If you notice any unusual activity, be sure to raise a red flag to your IT leadership and explore the situation further.
- Keep An Eye On This Evolving Threat
It has only been a few days since these security flaws were identified. More information is sure to surface over the coming days and weeks – including critical information from the security researchers who identified these flaws as well as the impacted providers Intel, AMD, and ARM.