Computer security researchers have revealed two major flaws that affect almost every computer that the world has ever seen. Dubbed Meltdown and Spectre, these two flaws can give hackers access to every data stored on your devices including computers, mobile phones, and cloud computing networks.
As there is always a fix for computer bugs, there is no known fix for the Spectre flaw. The researchers suggest that to fix it, the computer processors requires a redesign, which, thinking of it, seems a mission impossible.
As for the Meltdown, the software fix needed to rectify the damage comes with unfavorable side effects. According to the computer security experts who discovered the two flaws, performing the software patch to fix the Meltdown flaw will result in a 30% slow processing with your computer.
This will not be a very favorable experience for people used to fast downloads and fast internet surfing.
The computer security researchers including Jann Horn of Google and Paul Kocher, who also worked in giant tech companies like Microsoft said that they had revealed the flaws to Apple and Microsoft late last year, and were planning to make a public announcement about the same at a later date.
According to Paul Kocher, Meltdown, in particular, affects cloud computing systems, like those run by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Google and Microsoft said on Wednesday that they had updated their servers to deal with the flaws.
Intel Processor Company was also made aware of the flaws. And, according to Business Insider, Intel CEO sold $24 million worth of company stocks late last year.
Amazon has assured its customers that the two flaws have been in existence for the last 20 years and that the company has protected almost all instances of Amazon Web Service, and requested customers to keep their software updated.
There have not been any reports of hacking to prove that cybercriminals had taken advantage of the security issue, but that is just a matter of time. Acknowledging Meltdown and Spectre publicly before finding a cure is one way of telling professional hackers that our devices are ready and willing to be hacked.
Your personal information like online banking passwords, emails, and most likely, the cryptocurrency accounts could be at grave risk.
If they want to steal customers’ information, hackers will just have to rent space on a cloud service they’re interested in, and then take advantage of the flaws. Just like your next door neighbor can steal from your house when you leave the door open, or easy to open.
This is dangerous, because unlike in residential apartments, cloud computing is a network of computers, and one server cannot be used to serve one client. There are security protocols in place designed to isolate customer’s data, but with Meltdown in place, a skilled hacker will be able to bypass these walls.
For personal computers, the hackers will not be able to gain access as quickly as it is for cloud computing customers. They will have to first install and run software on your computer before they can steal your information. But this doesn’t mean that your computer is safe, it’s just as vulnerable.
Hackers are increasingly common these days, and computer security expert are forever on their toes trying to keep the big world made small by computer connectivity safe. But Meltdown and Spectre are not like any other bug.
These two flaws are beyond the usual cybersecurity challenges, because they affect the hardware level, allowing access to the silicon in your machine, and that makes fixing them very challenging. The exploits have access to the most basic area of your personal computer.
The researchers say that Meltdown is bad news for all computers using Intel microprocessors, which is almost all the computers in the world; 90% of world computers use Intel processors.
As for Spectre, the cybersecurity experts say that it affects most of the processors in use today. The researchers also noted that it is not an easy flaw to exploit, which is good because there is no known remedy for the problem, except redesigning the affected chip altogether.