Switched on is how many people describe the society we currently live and they couldn’t be closer and further from the truth.
Yes our society is switched when it comes to technology, with most people across the globe having an Internet connection and access to smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. In fact everything from our personal to our work life revolves around these devices in some way, shape or form.
But we, as a whole, couldn’t be further from being as switched on as we’d like when it comes to the workings of these devices.
In fact, it’s been found that the companies that create these devices and their inners aren’t as clued up as we’d initially thought either.
The Spectre and Meltdown problem
Just recently it was revealed that billions of us are using a form of device that features a 20-year-old computer chip flaw.
It was revealed to Intel, ARM and AMD by two separate groups of independent security experts that two bugs, named Spectre and Meltdown, could leak everything from passwords and sensitive data to cryptocurrency wallets, emails, instant messages, confidential business documents and personal photos.
If you thought the iCloud breach that affected celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence a few years ago was bad, this could be even worse.
What do they do?
Firstly, your computer would have to be infected with malware. However, this can be done by simply visiting a wrong website, which would allow a hacker to use one of the bugs to exploit a device.
Each bug affects devices in a separate way. Meltdown targets the hardware memory of desktops, laptops and cloud computing, or any device that operates using an Intel processor since 1995. However, it is unknown if this affects AMD and ARM processors too.
Spectre on the other hand can trick other programs into leaking secrets if used correctly by hackers, with billions of devices being affected, including smartphones.
Although Intel can’t fix their flaw directly, it is known that developers at some of the world’s leading companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft are working on ‘workarounds’ to resolve this issues.
It is also known that no one has taken advantage of this flaw in the last 20 years, which anyone knows of at least. It would also take state trained cyber sleuths or criminal hacking gangs to be able to manipulate it correctly.
Although this may bring a sigh of relief, the academics that discovered the bugs believe that Spectre may be around for quite some time, due to it being the tougher of the two bugs.
But there are ways you can try and protect yourself from these bugs.
What you can do
This latest information may be very worrying for businesses, especially with the risk of personal documents being leaked. After all, this information is often that of the public.
However if you check your operating system vendors or system manufacturers and update them ASAP, this could help. Many services such as Amazon Web services have already been patched, but until the all clear is given, keeping an eye on updates is key.
When it comes to personal devices Google has is currently updating Chrome, while applications like Google Drive are protected. However, when it comes to phones only Android devices operating the latest security update are covered, so make sure to update yours.
Microsoft is sending out a patch for Windows 10 customers and has told consumers to update their antivirus systems for protection, in a now deleted post.
Apple has stated that devices can be affected by Meltdown, aside from the iWatch, and are currently working on updates to resolve the issue.
Although it is important to update devices and check your own malware protection to cover yourselves as best possible, the future is still out there on this one.
While companies and now aware of this flaw, so are hackers, but with the worlds biggest tech companies getting a head start, many are confident that we could all be ok.
But in a world that’s increasingly switched on is this only the start of issues like this? After all, as we become more and more reliable on devices, our information is becoming much more open to vulnerabilities such as this. Only time will tell if everything will be ok, but it could be another 20 years or even six months before something major like this happens again.