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Flaws in CPU Architecture Could Be Exploitable

On January 3rd, information about a vulnerability that affects many computing devices was released. The flaws are present in the CPU (Central Processing Unit) which is the “brain”, or the part of a computer that performs all the processing of information. The flaws could allow an attacker to read information that the processor has accessed. As a result, sensitive information could be obtained. These flaws are known as Spectre and Meltdown.

The good news? The attack method is relatively complex, and most security researchers are telling people not to panic. The flaw is serious enough it should be patched, but the likelihood of an attack using this method is low – particularly if you already follow good security practices.

The bad news? This flaw impacts not only your computer, but potentially your smartphone, tablet or any device that has a processor.

There are several steps needed to make sure your computer is protected.

  1. Make sure your antivirus manufacturer has patched their software. You won’t be able to get the Windows patch if your antivirus isn’t compatible or up to date. Check with your antivirus software support if you aren’t sure.
  2. Update your computer or device with the latest security patches. For many, this will happen automatically. The Windows patch was released January 3rd.
  3. Update hardware firmware. Since the flaw is present in the CPU, which is part of your computer or devices hardware, a type of “patch” is needed for this. Most hardware vendors are still working on this, and not all will be patched. In some cases, replacing the hardware is your only choice.

As new information is made available, we will send out additional communication.

Further information about this vulnerability can be found here:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4073119/protect-against-speculative-execution-side-channel-vulnerabilities-in

http://www.zdnet.com/article/windows-meltdown-spectre-fix-how-to-check-if-your-av-is-blocking-microsoft-patch/

https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/microsoft/how-to-check-and-update-windows-systems-for-the-meltdown-and-spectre-cpu-flaws/

Matt Rice, CTO

Matt is a graduate of Central Maine Technical College. He has been with Burgess since 2001, acting as Service Manager, then General Manager, before becoming an owner. Matt focuses on developing and delivering technologies that fit best with customer needs.

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