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What We Know Now About Meltdown & Spectre Blog Feature
Courtney Casey

By: Courtney Casey on January 5th, 2018

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What We Know Now About Meltdown & Spectre

Tightening IT Security

If you’ve been following the news, you may have heard about two new security threats, called Meltdown and Spectre.

Your technology security is critical to us and we’ve been monitoring the situation closely since the news broke on Wednesday, January 3rd.

Details are still unfolding, so we’ll keep you posted. Here’s what we know now.

What are Meltdown and Spectre?

Two serious flaws have been found in ALL microprocessors, which are components found in every server, computer, smart phone, tablet, and many other devices. They’re everywhere.

Cloud systems are also vulnerable. Luckily, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services have already updated their systems to mitigate the threats.

What’s the Risk?

If an attacker chose to use one of these vulnerabilities, your system’s security could be compromised. They’d be able to read sensitive system memory, which could contain your internet browsing history, encryption keys, emails, and passwords.

The Good News – it’s hard for hackers to take advantage of these exploits right now, so it appears we have time to patch systems. As of today, there are no reported active real-world attacks based on Meltdown and Spectre.

The Bad News - these exploits are complicated to remediate. It will take a combination of updates on multiple fronts, including operating system updates, third party software updates, firmware patches from hardware vendors such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, and firmware updates from the actual chip manufacturers, such as Intel and AMD. Some experts are warning that the Spectre exploit may require certain microprocessors to be replaced entirely.

How Accent is Addressing it:

Microsoft issued a patch Wednesday night for all supported Windows operating systems. And a series of patches specific to server operating systems was released on Thursday.

These Microsoft security patches have been pushed to all computers and servers that we manage that are running Microsoft supported software, as part of our proactive maintenance processes.

Patches are applied after hours, according to your scheduled maintenance cycle, to systems we’re able to reach – meaning all machines must be left on at night (and logged off or locked). Workstations and servers may need to be rebooted during this time to make sure the necessary patches were applied successfully.

Other systems and technologies are also affected by this threat, but not all of the manufacturers have released patches yet. Our Infrastructure Management Team is reviewing which systems are affected, and will advise clients on the best path to remediation.

What You Need to Do to Stay Protected From This Threat, and Ones Like It:

1. Make sure your employees know to leave their computers ON (and either logged off or locked) when they leave for the night. That’s how our systems send security updates to their computers. 

2. Computers and servers may need to be rebooted for patches to successfully apply. All our managed IT clients are on a scheduled maintenance cycle where reboots may occur. If you have questions or concerns regarding your organization’s scheduled maintenance cycle, talk to your vCIO or Client Success Manager.

3. Users must stay skeptical of all emails containing links and attachments – even if they’re from someone in your contacts list. One user accidentally clicking on the wrong thing can impact your whole organization’s ability to work.

4. For all handheld devices and tablets, we recommend updating your Android and iOS systems as soon as the manufacturers release the next update.

If you have any questions regarding this threat, or security in general, feel free to reach out to us any time.

 

About Courtney Casey

In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.