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What To Do in the Wake of Meltdown and Spectre

Meltdown and Spectre are two of the latest security vulnerabilities, affecting nearly all modern computers at the hardware level. It’s important to understand the vulnerabilities at the highest level as well as the action steps that KSM Consulting has taken on behalf of our clients – and recommends for your organization.

What are the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities?
As of this writing, there are three known variants of Meltdown and Spectre:

CVE-2017-5715 – Branch target injection (Spectre)
CVE-2017-5753 – Bounds check bypass (Spectre)
CVE-2017-5754 – Rogue data cache load (Meltdown)

In technical terms, both Meltdown and Spectre represent flaws that affect a system’s processor and memory. These flaws allow an unauthorized attacker to bypass conventional security restrictions to gain access to privileged resources, which would otherwise be inaccessible. Using this access to privileged memory, an attacker could discover passwords, account information, and other sensitive details within the target system.

A few points to note:

In all three variants, an attacker would require administrator or root-level access to the system in order to attempt to execute these vulnerabilities. This makes tools for anti-phishing, anti-spam, and multi-factor authentication some of the best ways to prevent unauthorized administrator access to systems.

There are no known exploits for this vulnerability yet, but that is likely to change in the near future. Good planning and high vigilance are necessary to reduce the threat.

What can be done?
Because these vulnerabilities affect nearly all modern computers, platforms, and hardware, remediation requires a complex balance of patching and hardware replacement. Major vendors, such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Intel, are releasing new patches daily and continue to work to resolve the vulnerabilities. Patches need to be applied to all related infrastructure including workstations, mobile phones, tablets, and virtualized infrastructure, cloud or in-house servers, and even Software-as-a-Service applications.

Need Assistance? 
If you need assistance developing a plan for your organization, please contact our team. We can work with your team to put together a roadmap for your organization.

KSM Consulting will continue to closely monitor future announcements of additional information or potential exploits of these vulnerabilities.

Ryan Gould is the business technology practice manager at KSM Consulting. In this role, he manages 40+ IT professionals in the business technology practice, helping them develop, manage, and implement client solutions that strategically support their businesses. Connect with him on LinkedIn.