Emerging Threats

Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities affect billions of devices

Written by a NortonLifeLock employee


Recently, two critical vulnerabilities were discovered in modern processors.1,2 Dubbed “Meltdown” and “Spectre,” these processor chip vulnerabilities are found on personal computers, mobile devices, and in the cloud.

These hardware vulnerabilities can potentially allow programs to steal data that is currently being processed on the computer’s chip. While programs are typically not permitted to read data from other programs, a malicious program can exploit Meltdown and Spectre to access data stored in the memory of other running programs. This might include passwords stored in a password manager or browser, personal photos, emails, instant messages and even documents containing personal information.

How to help protect against these vulnerabilities

Norton can help users protect against some instances of this threat. If you run into any issues installing patches, you should make sure your Norton product definitions are up to date first, then apply operating system patches immediately afterwards. Updates have already been released for Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux to patch Meltdown. Spectre is reportedly more difficult to patch but also more difficult to exploit. Work is underway by all parties to harden the software against any potential exploits

How to help protect cloud data

Since this flaw also affects the cloud, and cloud data is stored on a physical server that utilizes these processors, some of these systems could become vulnerable, as well. It is advised to check with the cloud storage provider to see if their systems are affected by this vulnerability, and if so, ask them what to do to help protect important data.

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1 Graz University of Technology, “Meltdown and Spectre,” 2018.
2 Symantec Blog, “Meltdown and Spectre: chip vulnerabilities could facilitate memory leaks,” January 4, 2018.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.