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6 steps firms can take to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown risks
“Spectre" and "Meltdown" are the code names given to different strains of a new class of security attacks that target an underlying exploitable design implementation inside the majority of computer chips manufactured over the last 20 years. Security researchers revealed three major variants of attacks in January 2018. The first two are referred to as Spectre, the third as Meltdown, and all three variants involve speculative execution of code to read what should have been protected memory and the use of subsequent side-channel-based attacks to infer the memory contents. Gartner has identified six steps security leaders can take to mitigate risk.
Ensure that all code is ‘trustworthy’
“Modern operating systems and hypervisors depend on structured, layered permission models to deliver security isolation and separation,” Gartner researchers say. “Because this exploitable design implementation is in hardware — below the OS and the hypervisor — all software layers above are affected and vulnerable. However, memory can only be read, but not altered. Exploitation of the flaw requires untrusted code to be introduced and executed on the target system, which should be extremely difficult on a well-managed server or appliance such as a network or storage appliance. There is also an advantage in not rushing to "panic patch." Early patches created conflicts with some antivirus offerings and locked up Windows desktops. Some conflicted with the use of AMD microprocessors, so that the systems would not boot. Other early patches had performance impacts that have been improved by subsequent patches.”