Seeing Further News for January 2018:

Spectre, Meltdown, The End Of The World, And You

The recent press reports have sounded apocalyptic enough: virtually every PC made in the last two decades, every iPhone, every Android device suffers from two previously-unknown, built-in, low-level, highly-serious security vulnerabilities named “Meltdown” and “Spectre”.

At times the outcry has made it seem like the end of the world was at hand, with all existing computing devices destined for the scrap heap. But really, should you worry? What could happen?

Here’s a bit of good news: nothing has happened YET. Researchers discovered VULNERABILITES — bugs in the computer chips, if you will. These bugs COULD be exploited by very clever code to give a hacker unlimited access to everything running on your computer — something that shouldn’t be allowed, as modern operating systems work hard to isolate each different app from each other. Such clever code isn’t out there yet, but…

At the moment, the actual damage is zero. So far, Spectre and Meltdown differ from the other major security alarms of the past year, like the 140+ million people whose Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers were stolen from Equifax’s computer systems, or the hacked personal information of 57 million Uber users. Those are REAL problems, where it’s quite possible that your personal information is out there now for sale to whoever wants to buy it or find use for it.

Still, the POTENTIAL risk from Spectre and Meltdown is enormous, since theoretically every bit of information stored on every recent computer could be exposed.

Fortunately, fixes are coming quickly, and they are generally fairly straightforward. Because the vulnerabilities occur at a very low level of the computer’s operation, updating the operating system – whether Windows, MacOS, IOS or Android – is the required solution. And companies are rushing to release fixes (often followed by fixes to fixes). It may be a bit hectic for awhile, but things will settle down. And operating system updates almost never visibly affect your daily working operations, which means after updating, you should be able to go back to work just like always.

So check for security updates and keep to date! But you may want to consult with us us before you upgrade. A fe of the Intel upgrades have caused problems for some people. And for all computers, there’s a chance that your machine will run slower after the extra security updates are in place. How much slower? Hard to say. As best we can tell, you probably won’t notice any slowdown – but if you were thinking of upgrading to a faster computer, you now have one more good reason to do so.

If you need help with anything related to Meltdown and Spectre – if you aren’t certain whether you’ve got the latest OS version or how to perform an update, contact us and let us help.

It’s too bad that we can’t also stuff the Equifax data back away, but that horse has left the corral for good.