January 8, 2018
Writer: IT Communications Writer

Throughout the weekend of January 5 to January 7, news reports of long-running computer vulnerabilities spread throughout the world. These vulnerabilities, if exploited by a malware program, can render private information (i.e., computer passwords, emails, documents) accessible to hackers. Additionally, these vulnerabilities can be, and have been, worsened by two bugs in particular: Meltdown and Spectre.

What is Meltdown?

Meltdown creates a breakdown in the barrier between a computer's operating system and the user applications the computer enables. Essentially, it breaches the layers of security between a computer's programs and the operating system the computer runs on.

What is Spectre?

Similarly to Meltdown, Spectre creates security breakdowns; however, the breakdowns Spectre creates are from one program to another rather than from a program to an operating system.

Why Are Meltdown and Spectre Dangerous?

Meltdown and Spectre allow hackers to access private information that is ordinarily secured beneath layers of encryption by creating gaps in those very layers of encryption.

How Can I Keep My Computer Safe from Meltdown and Spectre?

Patches and fixes for both Meltdown and Spectre have been released. In addition to applying any/all available patches, it is heavily recommended that those who are concerned about Meltdown and/or Spectre regularly update the OS of their computer, phone, tablet, and any other device they may own.

To update the OS on a personal device, visit your device manufacturer's website to look for new updates. You can also respond to prompts sent to your device asking you to update your OS.  

To update the OS on a BYU-Idaho-supplied device (e.g., a work computer), follow update prompts and instructions as they are sent out.

I Need Help Updating My OS. What Should I Do?

BYUI students or employees who need help with updating their OS can call the BYU-Idaho Support Center at ext. 1411 and follow the over-the-phone prompts to get in contact with the correct technology support group. Other information on BYU-Idaho's technology security efforts can be found at www.byui.edu/information-technology/security.