ECA: Meltdown and Spectre - The Details You Need

Meltdown and Spectre: The Details You Need

cbetton News

On January 3rd, 2018, the U.S. National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Centre (NCCIC) was made aware of a set of critical vulnerabilities in modern computer processors. Exploitation of these vulnerabilities would allow an attacker to steal data currently stored in computer memory. This can include passwords, personal details, emails, photos, and even business-critical documents. Modern programs are typically equipped with safeguards to prevent such attacks, however malicious programs can exploit these vulnerabilities and compromise operational integrity.

MeltdownMeltdown breaks the most fundamental isolation between user applications and the operating system. This attack allows a program to access the memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system. If your computer has a vulnerable processor and runs an unpatched operating system, it is not safe to work with sensitive information without the chance of leaking the information. This applies both to personal computers as well as cloud infrastructure.”

Graz University of Technology (n.d.). Meltdown and Spectre. Retrieved January 12th, 2018, from https://spectreattack.com/

Meltdown primarily affects Intel and ARM processors, and can allow for the contents of RAM to be read. Initial resolutions will come with OS updates however future BIOS updates will provide a more concrete fix. The current solution in place affects CPU performance by up to 25% (dependent on the application in use and the type of work being done). For this reason, customers will need to decide themselves as to whether they apply the fix or not.

Spectre

Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications. It allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets. In fact, the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre. Spectre is harder to exploit than Meltdown, but it is also harder to mitigate.”

Graz University of Technology (n.d.). Meltdown and Spectre. Retrieved January 12th, 2018, from https://spectreattack.com/

Spectre affects all 3 CPU vendors with the most vulnerable systems being those that operate virtually. A fix for this will most likely come from software vendors – a hardware fix isn’t available at this time.

Until a resolution is found, we strongly recommend the following:

Protect your administrator privileges

  • We strongly encourage all customers to regularly undertake safe computing practices:
    • Maintain firm control over your computing environment
    • Regularly check for and apply the latest firmware and driver updates
    • Maintain hardware and software firewalls
    • Turn off unused services
    • Maintain user privileges
    • Keep your security software up-to-date
    • Avoid clicking unknown links
    • Change passwords in-line with strong security protocols and avoid re-using passwords
    • Do not install unknown software or programs

Update your Operating System (OS)

  • We encourage all customers to update their OS with the latest patches from official vendors. More information can be found here.

Microprocessor Vendor Micro-Code Update

  • Microprocessor vendors are currently updating their patch solutions to help solve these security risks, however there are still issues to be solved by the larger manufacturers at this time.

January 10: Advantech Product Security Bulletin – Meltdown and Spectre Side-Channel Vulnerability

If you have any further questions, please contact our Technical Team on +44 (0)118 929 4990