"Pretty much every PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone is affected by the security flaw, regardless of which company made the device or what operating system it runs."
The computer related story that is filling the headlines at the present time is the announcement that the chip vulnerability that appears to be built into the processors for almost every device in use can theoretically be targeted by two specific vulnerabilities called 'Spectre and Meltdown.
The massive nature of the challenge that is presented as virtually millions of devices could be affected if steps are not taken to correct the challenge. Some reports indicate that the major operating system software vendors are building patches to protect systems from exploitation of the problem. That is the good thing given the implications for world wide computer and communications use. The negative parts of the reports indicate that the patches could potentially create a performance hit for users by slowing activity by from 5 to 30 percent. On the low end the impact will probably not be noticed but on the high end if your device were affected at that level you might find it impossible to carry out meaningful work.
Reports indicate that major chip manufacturers have reported that are not aware of any instance where the vulnerability has actually been used to affect systems. That's the good news but of course the potential is still there and now that the problem is public you can bet the hackers are looking at how they might exploit it.
The patches are being rolled out by all the major players and this means that correction is being implemented of course at the potential of the performance hit mentioned above.
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What should you do?
- Make sure you patch all of your devices as new software patches are released by the vendors. Auto updates will most likely deliver this to the bulk of the world but if you don't have auto update enabled make sure you install the latest releases right away.
- Hackers need malware installed on devices to use the Spectre or Meltdown attacks so making sure that you are using up to date malware and virus protection on all of your devices (see list above) to keep these challenges at bay.
- Watch out for phishing attacks with email and message scripts which try to get users to click and thus unload a malware routine.
Get help from IT specialists if you are unable to take action yourself. This is one of those instances where taking the precautionary steps is much better than trying to correct a problem once it is found.
Welcome to 2018. It appears that nothing has really changed. IT and communications system security in all their forms are still going to be big stories this year. Keep vigilant.