Hardware design flaws Meltdown and Spectre mean users should be overly cautious

At the beginning of 2018, researchers announced two massive security flaws, known as Meltdown and Spectre, in computer chips produced in the last 20 years. This means that almost all computers, including mobile devices and some equipment you may use for your home network, also carry these hardware flaws.

ITaP is asking all users to take extra caution when opening emails and browsing the internet. As long as the computer is clean and free of malware, the hardware flaws probably cannot be exploited. But if a user opens a phishing email with malware, for example, those vulnerabilities can be exploited and open your machine up to major security breaches.

“It’s a big deal because it affects almost every computer,” says Greg Hedrick, Purdue’s chief information security officer. “These flaws allow malicious programs to steal data that is being processed in your computer memory.”

During this period of vulnerability, until companies deliver security patches, please ensure that appropriate steps are taken to avoid malware downloads. Think before you click.

What can you do to prevent damage to your computer?

  • Use extra caution when opening emails and attachments.
  • Don’t open an email from an unknown sender.
  • Keep your antivirus software updated.
  • Scan your machine periodically.
  • Update your machine’s software with patches when available.

For additional information about how to spot a phishing scam, and free antivirus software, check out the SecurePurdue website, http://www.purdue.edu/securepurdue.

Last updated: January 19, 2017