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Meltdown and Spectre: Will the world end?

Meltdown and spectre vulnerability concept. Chipocalypse Meltdown and Spectre threat on laptop and smartphone screen.
Meltdown and spectre vulnerability concept. Chipocalypse Meltdown and Spectre threat on laptop and smartphone screen.

They sound like something James Bond should be getting to grips with, but they are in fact the names given to vulnerabilities in the world of computer security. Garry Moore, managing director of Genmar IT in Bishop's Stortford, gives his view..

These made worldwide headlines a few weeks ago, but there is little sensible advice available as to what they are and what you should do.

At the heart of all things computerised sits one or more chipsets. This is a generic name for computer components like the CPU in your home PC.

Many companies manufacture them, but you will be most familiar with Intel and their latest i3, i5 and i7 CPUs, and probably have one sitting in your PC, under the desk in the spare room gathering dust, wondering why it has not been turned off in the last three years.

The news is that there is a design flaw in all chipsets for the last 20 years-plus that could allow unauthorised access to secure information on your device. Sounds pretty bad so far, I know.

However, this is not news about a new scam or malware already attacking you. This is like someone writing an article saying that they have been made aware that all door locks can be opened without a key if hit with a specific hammer at a certain angle if the temperature is right and you would need to know an awful lot about locks to do it.

As far as I know, there have been no actual attacks making use of this vulnerability. Probably because most spurious bods who might use this to gain access to your info have many easier and more lucrative ways to do so without learning new tricks that they know will be being plugged as we speak.

This still requires fixing as there are no guarantees that someone will see a reason to utilise these vulnerabilities soon. As this is a design flaw, the best resolution will be to start making chipsets without the flaw, but as this will be a tad expensive there are interim measures available that you should consider.

Most Android and iPhones now have an update to ‘patch’ the issue. For your computer, if you are running Windows 10 there is an update. Intel is also releasing firmware updates. If you need advice, please give us a call.

Why two names? Meltdown is used for all Intel-based issues and Spectre for AMD and others. As to the initial question, I am reliably informed that yes it will, but not because of this.

Garry Moore is MD of Genmar IT, Unit 12, The Links Business Centre, Raynham Road industrial estate, Bishop’s Stortford CM23 5NZ. You can contact them on 0330 445 1234 or at email@genmar.co.uk

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