Computer researchers have recently found out that the main chip in most modern computers—the CPU—has a hardware bug. It’s actually a design flaw in the hardware that has been there for years. This is a big deal because it affects almost every computer on your network, including your workstation and all our servers.
This hardware bug allows malicious programs to steal data that is being processed in your computer memory. Normally, applications are not able to do that because they are isolated from each other and the operating system. However, this hardware bug breaks that isolation.
So, if the bad guys are able to get malicious software running on your computer, they can get access to your passwords stored in a password manager or browser, your emails, instant messages and even business-critical documents. Not good.
The specifics on Meltdown and Spectre
Meltdown and Spectre are two separate threats that exploit this hardware bug. Meltdown works to break down the very important isolation that you want between the applications you run and the hardware’s operating system. This gives programs access to the memory, and important data, on your operating system.
Spectre works somewhat differently and instead breaks down the isolation that exists between different applications. An attacker can essentially access the confidential data inside another program.
Both Meltdown and Spectre can attack PCs, mobile devices, and the cloud so very little is immune from these attacks. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any indication of either on your system because neither leave any traces in log files and traditional antivirus software will have a hard time identifying them.
So, what should you be doing about this?
You should be aware that you may have to replace some mission-critical computers to fix this. It’s also important that you and your staff be extra vigilant and keep security top of mind. Think Before You Click.
However, one of the biggest steps will be to work with the patches and workarounds available to help protect you. You’ll need to update and patch all machines on the network. This is going to take some time, and some of the patches are not even available yet.
What are patches?
Patching is basically fixing system vulnerabilities that are discovered after the software is released. They can apply to an operating system, a server, desk tops, or any of the applications you use every day. Patches like those for your operating system often require you reboot after downloaded and installed to activate the changes. The number of patches your system or network requires every year can be overwhelming which is why you want to be sure they are scheduled as frequently as possible. Often, patches fix the problems they’re designed to correct, but they unintentionally cause problems with something else. Because this is common, it’s important that whoever manages the patch deployment for your business knows what to look for and how to correct it.
At InhouseCIO, we keep clients’ systems up to date, which includes the latest patches. In fact, it’s what we consider a “critical function” of the support we provide. We’ve developed our own best practices to manage the risks associated with the approval and deployment of patches that includes our engineers assessing and testing every patch before deploying it on a system.
If you have any questions about Meltdown, Spectre, or patch management in general, please contact us for more information.