Threat Alert: Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

On Wednesday, January 3, 2018, it was revealed that processors from leading chip makers contain vulnerabilities that could let attackers access sensitive information on computers, smartphones and servers. The vulnerabilities were discovered by researchers at Google’s Project Zero and have been dubbed “Meltdown” and “Spectre”. These threats exploit processors differently. Below is information that you can share with your customers to make them aware and understand what they should do to protect themselves. We also provide some suggestions you will want to consider to keep your business protected.

What exactly can happen?
In order for computer processes to run faster, a chip can “guess” what information the computer needs to perform an upcoming function. This is called speculative execution. When a chip guesses correctly, this speeds up your processing. If it guesses incorrectly it just takes a little longer for that process to finish. During these guessing processes your potentially sensitive data can be seen by someone who can exploit these vulnerabilities. So, from a high level, these exploits can make your personal information like passwords and encryption keys readable to hackers. The difference between Spectre and Meltdown are just in how the data is read. Spectre can actually trick your processor into running the speculative execution (guessing) process to get your sensitive info. Meltdown simply lets attackers access the sensitive information through the operating system on your device. These operating systems do include Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, Android and Mac OS.

What processors are affected?
Spectre has been verified to affect chips from large companies including Intel, ARM and AMD although all modern processors are potentially vulnerable. Meltdown, as of right now, has only been known to affect Intel chips that have been manufactured since 1995 with the exception of the Itanium and Atom chips made before 2013. The vulnerability is widespread and more than likely impacts most of your customers machines. But it doesn’t stop there, Meltdown can also affect servers, so major cloud services will need updated. As of Wednesday, Both Google and Amazon say that they have secured all affected products but it may take time for all cloud services to catch up.

What can be done to avoid an attack?
The good news is that researchers, chipmakers and computer companies are all saying that there are no known examples of these exploits being used to attack computers. However, now that this information is public, you can be sure that there will be people trying to take advantage. In order for a hacker to see this data, they would first need to install malicious software on your computer or device. This means that your customers need to make sure to keep their operating systems updated as well as their anti-virus/malware protection on and updated (SecureIT has automatic updates). Also, they should be on the lookout for phishing emails that try to trick them to download malicious software or files.

This serves as another reminder to your customers to make sure that their files are backed up and that their information is guarded by strong, unique passwords. Make sure that they have a strong anti-malware program installed and up-to-date. Tech Home Support and TotalTech Premium subscription customers that need help updating their operating systems can call in anytime for assistance.

What should providers be doing now?
SecurityCoverage has patched all of its servers and cloud services to the latest available patch levels, and if you have not already done so, we recommend that you do the same for your office. We will continue to monitor the situation and perform further maintenance as warranted. It is likely that more patches and updates will become available in the days and weeks ahead so keep an eye out for them and perform necessary maintenance in a timely manner.

Communicate the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities to your customers so that they are informed and know what is recommended to best protect themselves.

We will keep you updated if there are further developments.

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