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Computer Security Crisis: Meltdown and Spectre

  • Chloe Byrne
  • 18 January 2018

Security!

The world of computers is facing a crisis after security vulnerabilities have been exposed on processors made by Intel, AMD and ARM. This makes billions of worldwide devices vulnerable to being hacked. Researchers at Google discovered this major CPU flaw in June 2017. Most computers and mobile devices have been exposed to security flaws over the years. Intel’s latest processing issue is the biggest security scare in recent years. Intel processors are in 90% of computers worldwide affecting billions of people.

Intel

Researchers have discovered gaps in security stemming from the central processing units (chips/microchips) which could allow private data and networks to be hacked. Meltdown and Spectre are the two bugs which have been found and are affecting chips dating back as far as 1995. Meltdown affects computers and laptops and internet servers with intel chips. Spectre can reach as far as smartphones, tablets and computers powered by Intel, ARM and AMD. Some researchers say data centres and devices connected to the cloud could be at risk. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre’s main concern is that more hacking of devices will happen now that the weakness has been made public, but it has recorded no hacks through this flaw to date.

There’s now a rush to fix chips. Intel had tried to keep the issue under wraps by getting staff to sign non-disclosure agreements. The bugs could allow hackers to read data stored on the computer including credit card details, personal photos, emails and passwords.

How will this be resolved?

Device makers and operating systems are pushing out security updates and patches which will protect computers, Tablets and phones against a breach that uses Meltdown vulnerability. Users should install these updates as soon as possible. Microsoft, Apple and Linux are all involved.

Apple has announced that all Macs, Ipads and Iphones are affected with the exception of Macs running on 10.13.2 and Ipads and Iphones running on IOS version 11.2.

Microsoft have released an emergency Meltdown patch for Windows 10 on 4 January via Windows Update. This will also be applied to Windows 7 and 8.

Linux's developers saw this coming early on and patched Linux devices to be able to deal with it. The bad news is that their devices will run on at least a 5% lower pace.

Google has announced that android phones with the most recent security updates are protected. Chromebook users need to update their version. Chrome web browsers are expected to receive a patch at the end of January.

There has been no fix found for spectre yet.

Some of the fixes may slow down computers. Intel claim the amount it will be slowed by should not be significant. Some experts in the field however claim computers may be slowed by 30 percent.

Spectre and Meltdown have shown a huge flaw in how computers are designed and their will have to be a rethink on how they are made in the future.

What are we doing to protect our customers?

Here at Real World Analytics we take security processes very seriously to protect our data and importantly our customer’s data. We are working alongside ISAS who are a consultancy company dedicated to delivering the highest calibre of Information Security advisory and support services to its clients to ensure that we do not leave ourselves open to any hacking vulnerabilities.