A clearer picture is merging of the effect of the Spectre/Meltdown vulnerability patches on PCs.

meltdownWhat are Meltdown and Spectre?

Meltdown and Spectre are two security flaws that exploit critical vulnerabilities in almost all modern processors. These vulnerabilities in the hardware potentially allow malicious programs to steal data that is being processed by the computer. While programs are normally not permitted to read such data, a malicious program could exploit the Meltdown or Spectre vulnerabilities to acquire information stored in the memory by other programs. This could include passwords (even from a password manager). Meltdown and Spectre affect personal computers, tablets and mobile phones, and some cloud services.

Meltdown

Meltdown breaks down the fundamental isolation between “user applications” and the basic operating system functions. The attack allows a program to gain access to the memory, and thus also the data, of other programs and even the operating system itself.

If your PC has a vulnerable processor and is not patched with the latest operating system and hardware updates, it is unsafe to work with sensitive information – you could have the information stolen. This applies personal computers and also cloud infrastructure. Software patches against Meltdown have been written and pushed out to computers in the past few weeks.

Spectre

Spectre, like Meltdown breaks the isolation between processes the computer is running – this time between applications. It allows a potential attacker to trick programs into leaking their secrets – even those that have been written with best-practice security practices. In fact, the safety checks of the best practices actually increase the potential for attack.

Spectre is far harder to than Meltdown to exploit, but also harder to mitigate against. It is possible to prevent specific exploits through software patches.

How Will the Meltdown and Spectre Patches affect my Computer’s Speed?

After being patched, Windows PCs take a performance hit in some operations: PC World US’s Gordon Mah Ung performed some tests and saw storage throughput speed drop on his Surface Book after the firmware patches were in place.

“Sequential read and write performance doesn’t change much, But 4K performance ain’t pretty. While read performance was similar, the 4k write performance dropped by about 26 percent. 4K read and write  operations with high queue depth took a performance hit of 40 percent.”

–PC World, “Here’s how much the Meltdown and Spectre fix hurt my Surface Book performance” January 13, 2018

Frequent reboots issue:

Another potential problem, not related to performance, has been found. Intel said that both Haswell and Broadwell chips have had issues with reboots: “We have received reports from customers of higher system reboots after firmware updates. Specifically, these systems run Intel Broadwell and Haswell CPUs.”

 

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

No matter if you are concerned about a performance drop after installing the Spectre and Meltdown updates, one thing is certain: YOU MUST UPDATE YOUR SECURITY SOFTWARE AND INSTALLE ALL OPERATING SYSTEM SECURITY PATCHES. Do not delay this action, as now the vulnerabilities are known, hackers will be working to exploit them. If you are not sure how to upgrade your software, of your computer is now too slow and needs attention, call our Hull IT Support Team today to find out how to sign up for our affordable IT Support solutions.