Meltdown and Spectre CPU Issue
20th January 2018
“Meltdown and Spectre”
There has been a lot of information flying around this month in regards to Intel and AMD processors having vulnerabilities exposing them to potential hackers. Media speculation about performance issues after updates and a global hacking issue appear, to date, to be unfounded.
What is Meltdown and Spectre?
Codenames given to the two vulnerabilities; they offer potential hackers two ways of exploiting your computer and data.
Meltdown to some extent is the more serious vulnerability as it could allow hackers to bypass the wall between software applications that you may be using and the systems core memory, resulting in effect a Meltdown.
Spectre relates to how processors handle “speculative execution” which is how processors increase performance on your machine. This can be attacked in order to gain access to sensitive data which is normally protected in kernel memory. Data stored here can include any personal data stored on your machine including passwords.
How do I know if my computer is at risk?
According to Google® who were fundamental in discovering the flaw, ‘effectively every’, intel processor released since 1995 is at risk regardless of device or operating system. Its not just limited to Intel though, AMD are also working on fixes to flaws found in their processors but these are limited to certain models so the risk is lower in comparison. Apple® have also announced that ios devices such as phones and tablets may be affected and are working on a updates.
What can I do?
Update everything. Intel, AMD and pretty much the entire computer industry have been working to release patches and updates in order to plug the vulnerabilities. These have been released through a series of updates which will automatically install on your computer. Go to Windows Update on your computer and install all updates that are available.
Something that we should all be doing on a regular basis is making sure you have sufficient Anti-Virus and Malware protection. If you don’t have this yet it’s a good time to consider it, Laptop Station recommends Bullguard Internet Security. While Anti-Virus programmes tend to keep themselves up to date it’s a good idea to check them and make sure they have the latest updates.
Is computer performance going to be affected?
At the start of the Meltdown and Spectre revelation there was a lot of attention around computer performance being affected by the patches and updates. Some media outlets reported that global computing power could be affected by up to 50%. To date this has not happened. In fact you should notice no difference in performance when doing day to day tasks. Some high end gaming may take a little hit in performance or frame rate but manufacturers testing this say that it hasn’t been noticeable.
So in conclusion, Yes the potential risks are huge in terms of the vulnerabilities that have been exposed however everyday users shouldn’t be rushing to throw away their tech and referring back to pen and paper just yet. This isn’t the birth of Skynet and Terminator.
Run your updates, check your anti-virus and as always, be vigilant.
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