If it wasn’t Petya or the many security attacks on banks and globally important organisations, chipmakers have given a new reason for you to be paranoid this year. Researchers have been able to detect vulnerabilities in chips—and that impacts virtually every operating system and computer on the planet. What’s more, neither users nor chipmakers can conclusively say that the chips in a particular system have led to security breaches or not, though, so far, no breaches have been reported. The two bugs, Meltdown and Spectre, make your most sensitive information, including passwords, vulnerable to hacking. Hackers can use the performance optimisation feature of your computer to gain access to kernel memory for further commands. In layman terms, in the time that the computer decides what to do next and open its vault, malicious software can access all information. What’s surprising though, is that most companies were unaware of this fault, and even now, have no means of finding out whether it has infected anybody or not. While Spectre is more broad-based in the chips it haunts, Meltdown chiefly affects those of Intel-make.
The more disconcerting news is that even if makers can bridge this gap, there would still be many that would be vulnerable, given that they power old systems which cannot be updated—many users do not update their systems regularly, too. More critical, Spectre and Meltdown expose the vulnerabilities of the tech world. A report from The Economist last year highlights this. The report shows that the companies are complacent, and the monopoly they enjoy in their respective market further accentuates the problem. The onus of blocking attacks must lie on the companies,not act afterwards. With our life getting more integrated with technology, businesses as well as consumers need to be more aware of security threats.