If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last week or so, you’ve probably noticed a lot of hoopla about two new security vulnerabilities that affect almost every computer on the planet. Terrifyingly named Meltdown and Spectre, the two affect every processor chip made since 1995. That means your phone, the server your website lives on, the cloud computers you use to store your data, the old laptop you’re using for a media server, they are all affected.
Since these vulnerabilities involve hardware issues and not software ones, the solution has been much more difficult to implement and large swaths of the tech community have been secretly involved in trying to come up with patches over the last few months since Google researchers (and others) first privately disclosed them.
But solutions have been created, and many of them are beginning to roll out this week. So what does this mean for you? Stick around and we’ll go through it.
Update, Update, Update
Never has the need to stay on top of those pesky software updates you’re always dismissing been more important. While software patches don’t completely solve some of the issues raised by Meltdown and Spectre, they go a long way, and from now on, if you see a software update roll through for any device you might be using, install it immediately. Period. Whatever you are working on can wait. Both your operating system and your browsers will need to be updated, so make sure you look at each one. These are also just the first in what is likely to be a string of updates over an extended period of times so…CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!
While you can control updates of your own devices, the servers that your websites and cloud computing live on will also need updating. What this means is that you are probably going to receive an email from you web host saying that at some point over the next week or two, your servers are going to go down for an update. As a security measure, the date of these updates is often not disclosed and only a time-range given, but since no action on your part will be required in most cases, that shouldn’t be the cause of much worry. While the servers go down for the update, so will your website, so if you notice some downtime, that may very well be the cause. It’s not certain at this time how long we should be expecting sites to go down, since this is a fairly unique issue that is being fixed.
Ok. That’s it. Even after you update all the things, you won’t be completely secure (as of right now anyway), but you can at least rest secure in the knowledge that you’ve done what you can do. Hopefully, as research continues on these issues, a complete solution will arise. Until then keep those updates coming, and try not to look over your (digital) shoulder too often.
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