Two huge vulnerabilities has been discovered that affect the security of most computing devices around the world. The vulnerabilities called Meltdown and Spectre works by exploiting a flaw in a processor optimization technique called speculative execution.
According to an article on Wikipedia,
Speculative execution is an optimization technique where a computer system performs some task that may not be actually needed. The main idea is to do work before it is known whether that work will be needed at all, so as to prevent a delay that would have to be incurred by doing the work after it is known that it is needed. If it turns out the work was not needed after all, most changes made by the work are reverted and the results are ignored.
What is Meltdown?
Meltdown affects Intel x86 and some ARM-based processors. The vulnerability works by allowing a rogue process to read any process's data in mapped memory whether or not it is allowed to do so. Meltdown affects all iPhones and some Mac devices and any computers with Intel Processors running Microsoft Windows or the open source operating system Linux. Google claims that almost any Intel x86 processor made since 1995 is affected. Meltdown also affects many IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as Smart TVs, mobile devices, home automation devices as well as network equipment and Cloud Services that utilize Intel or ARM processors. Meltdown was assigned to CVE-2017-5754. More information about Meltdown can be found at Meltdownattack.com.
What is Spectre?
Spectre is a more generalized exploit of branch prediction that is part of speculative execution. Like Meltdown, the vulnerability allows a rogue process to access data in mapped memory even if it's not allowed to do so. Spectre has been shown to work on most every modern processor including Intel, AMD, and ARM-based processors although AMD has denied that their processors are affected. Spectre was assigned to CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715 More information about Spectre can also be found at Meltdownattack.com.
Not Only Security Is A Concern
While the big problem with this vulnerability is security concerns over possible data leaks, there also is a concern over processor performance when a system is patched against these vulnerabilities. Studies have shown that with kernel level patching at the OS level, computers can be impacted from 5 to 30% in speed. Intel has said that future processors will not be affected by the vulnerability or speed impacts as they are designing the fixes in the processor firmware itself.
How can I protect myself?
Meltdown is currently being mitigated through OS Kernel patches and possibly firmware patches to the processor itself. While similar to Meltdown, Spectre is a little harder to mitigate as it is a whole class of attacks. Microsoft has been working on a patch since November and Apple and the Linux community are working on releasing a fix as well. Details regarding the exact exploit is under embargo as the software and hardware manufacturers try to make patches to fix this issue.
Nacron Productions can assess your organization's current situation with Meltdown and Spectre and come up with a mitigation plan for your business. Don't forget, this also affects your devices at home. Contact us today to figure out a mitigation plan.
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