Should digital signage users be worried about the Meltdown and Spectre flaws?

Should you be worried about Meltdown and Spectre?

The new year brought news of two major vulnerabilities that affect a significant number of PCs and devices used in digital signage installations.  The Meltdown and Spectre flaws impact different processors that have been widely used for decades. Should digital signage software users and network operators be worried about Meltdown and Spectre?

What do we know?

It looks like most Intel processors, as well as processors made by AMD, and ARM are affected by one or both flaws.  Meltdown is going to affect mostly Intel based hardware while Spectre will impact pretty well everyone.

Since news of these vulnerabilities came out, computer chip manufacturers have developed, or are in the process of developing, various workarounds and fixes.  The consensus seems to be that any potential fix will impact PC and device performance.  From what I have read, the performance hit won’t be all that noticeable for your typical PC user.  However, anyone who performs intensive computing tasks will probably notice a difference.  Think video editors, and server administrators.

We know that software patches for operating systems and web browsers have been released, and there are more coming.  It’s a good idea to implement these patches as they come out because many digital signage software products are built on web technologies, and many use web browsers to display HTML/HTML5 content.

Since Windows, Linux, Android and Apple OS are all affected, expect to see patches pushed out to your hardware fairly soon.  Those who disable auto-updates by default may want to turn the feature back on so they receive these patches.  You can always turn the feature off later.

What about DS software?

Currently, these threats are going to be handled at the OS and web browser level.  I don’t know of any user installable software that will be patched for these flaws, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  This is where your digital signage software protection plan comes in handy.  Those who don’t subscribe to software assurance plans should take notice.

We are going to be dealing with this for a while, and it won’t be just software patches and security updates.  Computer chip designs will change because of these vulnerabilities.  Until then we all need to remain vigilant, and apply patches as they are released.

Want to read more about this?  Check out this article by Ars Technica.

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