How to Protect Your Computer from Meltdown and Spectre

Protect your machine from some of the most dangerous threats affecting computers that’s we’ve ever seen

meltdown-spectre

Unless you haven’t watched the news in the past few weeks you’ve undoubtedly heard about  Meltdown and Spectre. We’ll give you the plain English rundown on these vulnerabilities and some help on how you can check your system. Just a warning though, as of this writing there is not a full patch or fix that’s quite up to the task.

Exactly what is Meltdown and Spectre?

Meltdown and Spectre are the two “code names” of sort given to recent exploits discovered within processors from Intel, AMD and ARM. They don’t have code names because they are secret agents or anything svelte like that. It’s just so we all have an easier way to talk about them as opposed to using their “official” designations. Officially they are CVE-2017-5715, CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5754 so you can see why the security world uses code names for major exploits.

These two exploits give bad actors the ability to access sensitive data that’s being worked on by your computer’s processor. While it may be as mundane as your family budget it could also include the passwords you’re entering for your investment account online or your bank’s online portal.

An interesting fact is that the flaw in these chips that can be exploited have actually been present for nearly two decades! And while the possibility that this could be a real danger has only been identified a few years ago, researchers have just now found a way to bring theory to the real world.

Do I need to worry about Meltdown and Spectre and keep my computer turned off?

While it’s not quite as bad as the media likes to hype it up to be at this moment, it’s not something you should totally ignore. And currently there are no known real world cases of hackers taking advantage of Meltdown and Spectre. It’s also worth noting that there has been quite the back and forth in the past few weeks on patches from Intel. Seems some of the patches they initially released are actually creating some big issues that had caused them to be pulled down to prevent further problems.

So, while you don’t need to keep your computer turned off to stay safe you should take advantage of the security updates and patches available for your devices. Keep reading and we’ll provide a quick rundown on what you can do depending on your device.

How can I tell if I’m affected by Meltdown and Spectre and what I can do to patch things up?

There are a couple of utilities that you can run on your PC that should give you a quick rundown on your current situation. Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Center and co-host of the Security Now podcast released a quick little utility called InSpectre that provides some good easy to understand information. There is another checker that’s been created by Ashampoo that can be downloaded here.

How do I patch my Windows PC against Meltdown and Spectre?

If you fit into this group that has a Windows PC to secure you’ve got plenty of company as this will be the majority of folks out there. One of the benefits though is Microsoft’s ability to quickly deploy patches and fixes. They’ve already got fixes available for download and if you’ve got automatic updates turned on and running you should be ok already, but it’s a good idea to force checking for updates just to be sure. Just fire up the start menu, press that little Windows key at the bottom left corner of your keyboard, and you can just start typing to enter ‘windows update’ in the search bar. Tap the enter key and you should get the windows update window where you can click on the ‘check for updates’ option to start the search. If it does come back and say you’ve got some updates available make sure to install them now and then reboot your computer.

How do I patch my iPhone against Meltdown and Spectre?

Just in case you’re wondering if your model of iPhone is vulnerable we’ve got the complete list right here:

  • All of them…

Seems that Apple was taking a bit of heat letting the public know that Meltdown and Spectre were affecting their phones but they’ve come forward now and let everyone know they are affected if they carry an iPhone. You should check now to make sure you’re phone is on the latest iOS version and you can do that by going in Settings then General and visiting Software Update. You’ll want to be on 11.2.2 for any of the latest models of iPhone (or iPad for that matter).

Apple claims that they’ve instituted a few “mitigations” back in 11.2 for Meltdown but that’s only one part of this dynamic duo. In regards to Spectre there does not appear to be a fix released at this time but rest assured as this situation evolves we’ll keep you updated. Right now Apple’s statement regarding Spectre is “We continue to develop and test further mitigations for these issues and will release them in upcoming updates of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.”

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Written by Jake Schaaf

Jake has been a tech geek his entire life starting with the Commodore 64 his parents bought him at the age of 13 around 1990. His experience and knowledge is mostly self-taught and through real-world experience. Some of that experience includes a stint in communications with the Army National Guard. He is a husband and father and enjoys making memories with his family. He is also an entrepreneur that has built a well respected and growing IT consulting firm.

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