Hear Shawn Tuma interviewed on News Radio 570 KLIF – Experts: Update Settings and Download Updates to Protect from “Meltdown” and “Spectre”
CLICK HERE if you are impatient and only want to know what you should do ASAP to protect against Spectre and Meltdown
With Y2K we had a warning. So much of a warning that it pushed me into cyber law in 1998. We were told of an apocalypse if we did not heed the warning and fix the problem. Whether we did, or whether it was a lot of hype is still being debated, but the problem was averted. When the ball dropped on NYE 2000, the planes were still flying, power grid still operating, and banks still banking.
Fast forward eighteen years, NYE 2018, the ball drops and, while we are closing out a year when the word cybersecurity (yes, it is one word, not two) has become a part of everybody’s vernacular, the only thing we were thinking of when hearing the words “Spectre” and “Meltdown” was a James Bond movie marathon on New Year’s Day.
Just a few days later we are now talking about a global threat to the world’s computers — all of them from the most powerful supercomputers to, yes, even Apple computers, all the way to the computer you carry in your pocket (i.e., your smartphone) — that isn’t just a programming or software glitch, but is also a hardware problem, going to the very heart of the computer: it’s CPU.
The threat timing? Imminent — this isn’t something that is going to happen, this is something that has already happened and has just recently been discovered.
Now unlike with Y2K, the problem in and of itself will not directly cause a failure but is a vulnerability that has been exposed that will allow others — the bad guys (whoever they may be) — to exploit the vulnerability. But take no comfort in this because you can bet, to the bad guys, the revelation of this vulnerability made this exploit Target of Opportunity #1 for all.
The fix? This where it gets good. “Meltdown” can likely be mitigated with software patches, which programmers at major companies are fervently writing as I write. The problem is, these patches will lead to a degradation of computer performance by 20% to 30% — but they are not optional. You must install them.
“Spectre” is where it could get really nasty. This will likely require a redesign of the computer processors themselves — a wholesale hardware redesign that focuses more on security vis-a-vis performance. Then, in order to implement the fix, the hardware will have to be replaced — the CPUs in all of the world’s computers upgraded.
Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Is this the real Y2K apocalypse arriving eighteen years late — Y2K18 or Y2K8teen? It could be.
But, if history is any indication it will not reach worst-case scenario levels, but things could still get really, really bad even if worst-case scenarios are not even on the radar. In fact, as this post is being written some researchers with clout are saying that the fix may not require the wholesale replacement of hardware — and I’m sure there will be more softening of this as we go along.
However, remember, “Wanna Cry” was only one exploit to a specific outdated Windows operating system that was revealed and had a patch issued for months before it actually hit. We all had better take this one seriously.
What can you do? When the patches come out from Microsoft, Apple, etc. and they tell you to install the patch to protect your computer, do it, immediately, and with a smile because losing 20% to 30% of your computing power is far better than losing 100%!