What You Need to Know about Meltdown and Spectre

What You Need to Know about Meltdown and Spectre


The “Meltdown” and “Spectre” security vulnerabilities that impact most computing devices in the world were announced Jan. 3, 2018. Laptops, desktops, even phones and tablets and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are at risk. Most devices have a processing chip design flaw that allows malicious programs to steal data. Normally, applications cannot do that because they are isolated from one another and from the operation system. The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities create a path that breaks through that isolation.

We believe that education is essential, and we’re here to answer your most pressing questions about Meltdown and Spectre:

How can my devices be compromised?

Attackers could potentially compromise the privileged memory of a processor by exploiting the way processes accesses memory during computing tasks. This means hackers could access your key strokes, passwords, email, messages, documents and other valuable information. Attackers must first gain access to your systems to run this kind of software within your environment.

ProviDyn has confirmed that the anti-virus software deployed as part of its Managed Services offering is compatible with the Microsoft security patch to address this issue on the newest versions of Microsoft Operating Systems including Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.

Have there been any attacks “in the wild?”

No attacks have been reported as of the writing of this article. Meltdown and Spectre were discovered by security researchers, not by an active attack. We know now that this threat exists, and it may be only a matter of time before systems are attacked.

What’s being done to fix this?

Microsoft, Google and Mozilla are issuing patches for their browsers as a first line of defense, and Microsoft issued an emergency security patch through Windows Update for Windows users. However, if you use a third-party antivirus software, you may not have a patch yet. Apple has also issued a patch for the MacOS.

How can I protect my devices?

It’s complicated. Because these vulnerabilities are hardware related and because they vary depending upon the software you use, complete fixes will probably take some time to implement. Fortunately, while Meltdown is easier to exploit, it also is easier to fix. Spectre, on the other hand, is harder to patch but also much more difficult to exploit at this time. Security researchers believe fixes for Spectre will require complicated processor redesign and hardware changes.

Here are some steps you should take now:

  • Update to the latest version of your internet browsers (Chrome will release a new version Jan. 23)
  • Make sure all your software is current and fully supported by the vendor
  • Use industry-leading antivirus and anti-malware software that is fully up to date
  • Make sure your network includes basic countermeasures such as a firewall
  • Consider adding advanced features like Intrusion Detection, Intrusion Prevention, Content Filtering and DNS protection on your network
  • Check Windows Update and ensure that you’ve installed update KB4056892 for Windows 10
  • Check with your device’s manufacturer website for support information and firmware updates
  • Back up your data daily
  • Control access to computers with key cards or similar measures to control access to facilities

And last – but NOT least – think before you click!

We’re here to help

ProviDyn’s technology experts are reviewing mediation plans and will be dispatching them to clients once they are tested. We are committed to ensuring timely deployment of appropriate countermeasures that have minimal impact to client performance.

As additional safeguards are recommended within the industry, ProviDyn will test and deploy them to our managed services clients. For more information about how to protect yourself from Meltdown and Spectre, contact us online or at 404-551-5492.