Quick Rundown of the Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Andrew Green, Lecturer of Information Security and Assurance

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 4, 2018) — Yesterday, news broke about two new vulnerabilities, dubbed “Meltdown” and “Spectre”. The vulnerabilities are present in CPU chips produced by Intel, AMD, and ARM. To give you an understanding of the scope of the problem, almost every computing device you own - desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet computer, and even cell phone - relies on one of these chips. The “Meltdown” vulnerability is present only in Intel chips, while the “Spectre” vulnerability is present in all three chipsets.

The vulnerabilities are different in attack vectors, but the end result is nearly identical. “Meltdown” takes advantage of a privilege escalation flaw in the Intel chip, which allows access to sensitive memory locations. “Spectre” works by getting CPUs to run a set of instructions, which ultimately gives access to sensitive memory locations.

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