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Cybersecurity Alert: Update on Meltdown and Spectre Chip Vulnerabilities

ACA Aponix

This is an update on a previous alert issued on the chip vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown.

Both vulnerabilities have multiple variants that allow hackers to access sensitive data on affected devices without administrative privileges. It has been confirmed that Meltdown is an Intel-specific vulnerability that affects the majority of Intel-manufactured laptops, desktops, and server chips. The Spectre flaw affects a broader range of chips from manufacturers including Intel, AMD, and ARM. While most computers leverage Intel chipsets, ARM chips are extremely prevalent within smartphones.

Given that most cloud environments leverage processor sharing across clients, most cloud providers have issued security alerts, including AmazonAzure, and Google

Business computers, personal computers, and smartphones face the risk of unauthorized, privileged data access, most commonly through malicious websites, web advertisements, and phishing attacks.

Apple and Android have issued updates for devices including iPhone, iPad, Google Pixel, and Samsung.

Microsoft patches for common versions of Microsoft® Windows®, including versions 7, 8, and 10, are available for deployment through Windows Update. Microsoft Windows Server® operating systems, including 2008R2 and 2012R2, currently require manual patching. The Windows Update for these operating systems is anticipated to be available starting January 9th. Note that many antivirus solutions will block these Windows updates from deployment given that the antivirus software perceives the update as potentially malicious. Please check with your antivirus vendor on any whitelisting requirements to allow for patch deployment.

Devices such as storage appliances and certain Internet of Things (IoT) devices may also be susceptible to attack, though exposure is less likely. Check with your device vendors for relevant patches.

Web browsers can be exploited through malicious advertisements and other web-based attacks. Updates are available for Google Chrome and Firefox that mitigate exposure but further updates are expected to be released on January 23rd.

ACA Aponix Guidance

ACA Aponix recommends taking the following precautionary measures:
  • For Apple device users, apply the latest patch by navigating to Settings General > Software Update.
  • Update your Web browser to the latest version.
  • For Google Chrome users, consider using the experimental Site Isolation feature, noting that usage could result in heavier resource consumption: 
  • Enter “chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process” in Google Chrome’s URL bar
  • Enable Strict Site Isolation
  • Save your changes and relaunch Google Chrome
  • Enforce Site Isolation and other Google Chrome security policies through group policy (GPO).
  • Log out of accounts on websites to expire cookies, sensitive data, and prevent side-channel attacks.
  • Utilize ad-blocking software or browser extensions to minimize the likelihood of malvertising exploits.
  • Install all available patches to mitigate exposure to these vulnerabilities.
  • ACA Aponix’s internal network scans can detect exposure to Meltdown and Spectre in a variety of environments, including Windows, common distributions of Linux, and common hypervisor operating systems, such as VMWare ESXi.

If you have any questions, please contact your ACA Aponix consultant or email us at info@acaaponix.com.