An increasingly dangerous digital world

We very commonly write about all sorts of scams, viruses and other threats that are becoming more important as we move our data and lives online. There are some newer threats we haven’t discussed, though, and they’ve been pretty much ignored by most media.

There are lots of “cute” names for these new threats, like Spectre, Meltdown, Spoiler, SplitSpectre, Zombieload and more. They aren’t cute problems, though. These are physical exploits in processors we use every day. Using some creative code a hacker can potentially steal passwords and get complete control of your computer with a “drive-by” attack, which means all you have to do is visit the wrong website once and they have control.

This is an issue found primarily in Intel processors. Unfortunately, Intel has about 90% market share on PCs and servers, so everyone is at some risk. Intel, so far, has largely ignored the problem, as it would diminish the speed of their processors noticeably. Their newest eighth and ninth generation processors have fixed some of the issues, but are still vulnerable to the rest. Processors from AMD have been patched with Windows Update, and are no longer affected. Most newer phones have been patched, too.

There isn’t a reason to panic yet, even with how scary these sound. These exploits were all found by security researchers, not hackers. To be able to perform this task you’d need to be an engineer, which most hackers aren’t. It just seems like it’s only a matter of time before a malicious individual figures it out.

In the meantime, follow our regular advice of using antivirus, stay away from websites you don’t know or trust, and never install a program unless you know it’s safe. Just give us a call at 507-831-3455, if you question something, and we can help!

Updated: May 22, 2019 — 7:23 am