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Approach for Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Approach for Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Understanding the Risk

In the news recently are two new system risks.. Meltdown and Spectre. These impact devices across the IT spectrum.. from Windows to Macs to Linux/Unix.  Even devices such as iPads and other tablets can be at risk.  The two risks exist at the chip/chipset level of the devices and leave them vulnerable to cyber attackers trying to access and exploit sensitive information.

  • Meltdown affects computer central processing units (CPUs) and a demo code has been released to exploit the vulnerability to access credentials, and other sensitive information from system memory.
  • Spectre can allow the hacker to access sensitive information from applications and may be more difficult for hackers to exploit.

For a deeper dive into the technical aspects of these risks, you can check out this link with a 3 minute video on concerns.  https://www.redhat.com/en/blog/what-are-meltdown-and-spectre-here%E2%80%99s-what-you-need-know

Managing the Risk

Despite the hype, fixes for Meltdown are already available and additional fixes are in the works.  Fixes for Spectre may require hardware changes but mitigating protections are available.  Erickson Solutions Group continues to make our normal recommendation for all types of threats such as these: protection in layers.  Specifically, the layers to consider are at the OS level (patching), the anti-virus level (have real anti-virus not free or bundled), the browser level (keep your browser up-to-date), and the user level (practice safe browsing/e-mailing).

Protection in Layers

The following patches and protection layers are recommended by ESG.  Contact us for help with any/all of these items:

  • Windows: Run Windows Updates to apply any/all available Windows updates to address the problem as soon as possible (at the time of this writing the key patch is KB4056892).
  • Browser: Updates are needed and have been shared by most major browser providers (Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge).  Your browser will typically update itself but you can help by rebooting your system frequently to give it a chance.   If your browser does not prompt you for an update or prompts you about an update error, we can assist.
  • Anti-virus/Anti-malware: We recommend Symantec for all systems.  Check that your Symantec has a happy green checkmark.  If you are on another platform such as Kaspesky or Windows Defender, make sure those are updating and set to fully protect to the best of their capabilities.  If you are still using an anti-virus that is “free”, “ad-based”, or came with your DELL/HP/etc.. this is the wake-up call to get real protection on your system ASAP.
  • User Training: If your user base is a little unclear about safe browsing or e-mailing practices, we can come on-site for a lunch-and-learn and/or to create specific handouts for your team.  At a minimum, we recommend discussing the risks with your team and advising them to contact ESG if they notice any unusual behavior on their systems.
  • BIOS: System manufacturers (aka OEMs) will be releasing BIOS updates from a hardware perspective – once available, these should be applied immediately.  These may require our help.

We are available at 913-538-5576 to answer any questions you and your team might have about implementing these patches/processes, updating devices when new releases are available, and resolving security issues should they occur!