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Six Months After: The Latest on the Meltdown and Spectre Exploits1 min read

It’s been roughly six months since the Meltdown and Spectre exploits became public knowledge. A lot has changed since then with manufacturers and developers working tirelessly to release patches to mitigate the problems. Even with all the work, the exploits are still causing their fair share of issues. What’s been going on in the battle between developers and Meltdown and Spectre?

A Refresher on Meltdown and Spectre

With so much happening in the world of network security, it feels like the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were ages ago, but they were made public this past January. You’re forgiven if you’ve moved on to the latest threat to your network, so let’s do a quick refresher, shall we?


In the most basic sense, Meltdown and Spectre go after the processors of the targeted system. Meltdown, as the name would suggest, ‘melts’ away the virtual barrier between applications and a system’s memory. With the barrier gone, an outside process now has access to the entire computer’s memory.

Everything from passwords to instant messenger logs and a whole host of other private information was ripe for picking. Spectre works a bit different. Where Meltdown forces its way into the memory, Spectre tricks the processor into allowing access to unauthorized areas of the system’s memory. No matter the tactic, the result is terrible for the user.

The two attacks exploit a 20-year old vulnerability found in nearly every computer chip in the general computer population. This leaves a lot of data and information at risk.

Have There Been Fixes?

As of now, there is no single fix for Meltdown and Spectre. Manufacturers are continually releasing patches and updates as the two exploits evolve. The patches come with one disadvantage. Manufacturers of affected chips stated that patches to mitigate Meltdown and Spectre could cause a dip in computer performance, with some being as high as 30%.
The good news is that the decrease in performance wasn’t as much as they first reported. A lot influences computer performance, and we will go over a few in a bit. The average user reported about a five percent dip in computer performance after installing patches. The number could always change when new patches are released.

Influences on Computer Performance

While the Meltdown and Spectre exploits and the patches to combat them impact your computer’s performance, other factors might put a burden on your machine.

Use

Meltdown and Spectre affect computers differently depending on its usage. Applications and other programs that use more processing power will be affected more than just checking email or browsing the web. Computer usage like virtualization, cryptocurrency mining, or heavy video editing will see a big decrease in computer performance.

Patch Used

No two patches are alike. And with virtually every computer processor affected, there are going to be a lot of different patches available. These patches will have differing effects on the systems on which they are installed.

Device Configuration

Computer hardware and software have a big influence on how your system will respond to the patches. A newer processor will be able to compensate for some of the performance issues that the patches might produce. While up-to-date operating systems, like Windows 10, will be impacted less than older versions.

What Can You Do to Fight Meltdown and Spectre?


The best way to fight back against Meltdown and Spectre is to follow simple security practices. This includes keeping all your software up-to-date with patches and security updates. Also, being more mindful of how you utilize your technology can go a long way to keeping your system safe.

At IT Support Guys, our remote monitoring system keeps a 24/7/365 watch of your entire network and connected devices. This ensures that all components necessary to operate your business are up and running. Along with monitoring, the IT Support Guys’ system installs all the latest patches and updates to keep your network secure. Keeping your business current in the fight against Meltdown and Spectre.

If you have been looking to update or refresh your hardware, it would be in your best interest to hold off on that. Developers are working on new processors and computer hardware that will better protect against these exploits. The tentative time frame is to start releasing the latest hardware by the end of 2018.

For a free network assessment to see how IT Support Guys can help improve your network security practices, call and talk with a specialist today at 855-4IT-GUYS (855-448-4897).

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Ben Jones

Ben Jones

Technical writer Living in Tampa, FL. Originally from Indiana. In my free time, I cook, play golf, stay active (either outside or at the gym) and patiently waiting for the next Star Wars movie.

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