Spectre & Meltdown – What’s all the Fuss About?

By now you will have heard something about the two latest computer exploits known a Spectre & Meltdown. They have been described as the worst vulnerabilities to be discovered – ever, requiring every PC user on the planet to update their computer. These attacks allow a malicious program to access the computer’s memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system.

Unlike previous exploits, these two problems don’t affect just one device or operating system. They can be used, for example, to attack Windows, Mac & Linux operating systems. The problem is not with the operating system. It is the microcode that these systems operate on top of that is at the root of the problem. While Meltdown affects only Intel processors, Spectre affects all CPU manufacturers including AMD & ARM-based processors.

Microsoft has released an update to mitigate the Meltdown exploit on Windows 10 computers but this fix has the side effect of slowing down computers with older hardware. Additionally, AMD processors that aren’t vulnerable to Meltdown have been known to stop booting after applying this update. The Spectre exploit can’t be fixed as easily. It will require an update to the computer’s BIOS which may or may not be made available by your computer manufacturer. This is also not something that the typical user would feel comfortable doing. A mistake could make your computer unusable.

The good news, for now, is that the bad guys don’t appear to be taking advantage of these exploits – yet. However, it’s only a matter of time before they do. Software for checking your computer is becoming available. Once you know your computer is vulnerable (very likely), you will then have to decide how to remedy the problem.

At SherTECH, we have the tools and knowledge to assist you with these problems. If you’re uncertain what you should do, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can help!

Peter Sherlock-Hubbard
– SherTECH Computer Services

For a great explanation of these two exploits, check out this website: https://spectreattack.com/


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