Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Be warned! - Billions of tech devices at risk as Spectre and Meltdown unfold

Published:Saturday | January 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Andrew Wheatley (right) minister of science, energy and technology, in discussion with Dr Louis Shallal, government chief information officer, during the National Cyber Security Month function, which was held at the Police Officers' Club in October.

Even as technology companies race to fix a massive vulnerability unearthed this week in a wide array of technology products, consumers and the public at large are being warned to be vigilant when handling these devices, especially those using Intel processing chips.

There has been a major fallout following the revelation that a vulnerability within the chips could be the avenue through which computer hackers gain access to sensitive information stored on the devices.

Billions of PCs, smartphones, and tablets around the world are affected. It emerged yesterday as the world digests what is being described as one of the largest security flaws in history.


Monitoring situation


Science, Energy and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley said yesterday that the Government was monitoring what is being described globally as the Spectre and Meltdown tragedy.

Wheatley said that the Jamaica Cyber Incident Response Team (CRIT) has been monitoring the situation and has sent advisories to all government ministries, departments, and agencies on the practices, that are to be employed to mitigate against the exploitation of the vulnerabilities.

"The Jamaica CRIT has been working round the clock with local stakeholders, international partners, and with private sector experts to lead any response," Wheatley said yesterday in response to mounting fears.

Added the technology minister: "As a country, we must take this situation seriously. Small and large businesses, hospitals, utility companies, telecommunications firms, entities in the health, finance, and insurance sector must all take the necessary steps to secure and update their computer systems to mitigate against any attack that may result from these two vulnerabilities."

... Will have severe consequences for Jamaica

At the same time, an expert in the computer science field and a lecturer at a local university told The Gleaner yesterday that the fallout from the Spectre and Meltdown will have severe consequences for Jamaica.

He described the unfolding situation as one tantamount to a national crisis, arguing that files previously thought of as "safe and confidential" could have been compromised.

The technology expert said that the Government would need to do a full nationwide assessment through suppliers to put a figure to the number of persons who could possibility have been exposed.

Yesterday, technology giant Apple disclosed that their products were not spared the scare of the flaws and said that all Macs, iPhones, and iPads are at risk.

Since the revelation, three separate class-action lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs in California, Oregon, and Indiana seeking compensation, United States media have reported.