A Look at Meltdown and Spectre

Meltdown and Spectre have been predictably making waves in the industry, and the vendor responses have been scattered and, in some cases, haphazard. The latest patches from Intel cause increased system reboots; Microsoft had to halt patches for AMD systems, as systems were rendered unbootable. Ubuntu Linux has also had a patch reverted due to systems being unbootable. The overall fix is changing the processor architecture, which likely won’t happen for a number of years.

As a brief introduction to these vulnerabilities, Meltdown and Spectre are two different attacks leveraged against the intended functionality of modern processors. Meltdown can be used broadly against a wide range of processors from different vendors, and its main functionality is to potentially read kernel memory from userspace. Spectre is much more targeted, and focuses on leaking data between or within processes. The key point to understand about these vulnerabilities is that they are information disclosure vulnerabilities that can enable processes and applications to access information they otherwise shouldn’t be able to: user-mode applications can access privileged information in the kernel and throughout the operating system.

As a Palo Alto Networks partner, EITS has been closely following their response to the bugs. As with most vendors, the main recommendation has been to focus on patching your servers and endpoints as you can, and if there are any specific attacks that can be mitigated, they will provide security content to address this as they can. Palo Alto Networks’ Traps endpoint product has also been noted, like other AV solutions, to not be capable of stopping these attacks, as these are kernel memory reading vulnerabilities that do not cause code execution. That being said, Traps is one of the most well-equipped products at mitigating attacks in general, and Meltdown/Spectre still rely on local privilege and deployment mechanisms such as malware.

Microsoft has made a significant change in their patching process moving forward in relation to AV compatibility. Historically, Microsoft has called out any vendors that caused issues with patches they deployed, and, as is expected in this industry, vendors have been quick to point out issues with Microsoft. As of the January 3rd patch, however, Microsoft deemed it important enough to require A/V vendors evaluate their products for compatibility, and then set a registry key on impacted endpoints.

If a machine does not have this registry key, they will no longer receive security updates from Microsoft through Automatic Updates. For organizations leveraging deployment solutions to deliver their patches, there should not be any impact. What makes this a bit more complicated for everyone else is that many vendors have chosen to not automatically set this registry key, including Palo Alto Networks Traps (note: Palo Alto Networks is working on an update to do this and is expected soon.)

EITS recommends evaluating any patches relevant to your systems thoroughly due to these documented concerns. You can find more information at the below links:


Customer Advisory from Palo Alto Networks


The Register: Meltdown/Spectre Week Three


Overview of Impact by Intel

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Happy Streams – Paul’s Security Weekly #543

Diana Kelley and Ed Moyle of Security Curve join us for an interview! Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec and Senior Instructor at the SANS Institute joins us for another interview! In the news, fingerprinting digital documents, Skype finally getting end-to-end encryption, Apple set to patch yet another macOS password security flaw, and more on this episode of Paul’s Security Weekly!

Full Show Notes: https://wiki.securityweekly.com/Episode543

Visit https://www.securityweekly.com/psw for all the latest episodes!

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We Rock This Thing – Enterprise Security Weekly #75

This week, Matt Alderman joins Paul to interview Marci McCarthy, CEO and President of T.E.N. & CEO and Chairman of ISE®! Marci has over 20 years of business management and entrepreneurial experience! In the news, we have updates from Bitglass, WhiteHat, and Twistlock! Matt Alderman talks container security with Paul, and more on this episode of Enterprise Security Weekly!


Full Show Notes: https://wiki.securityweekly.com/ES_Episode75


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Firewall, Protected?

We have a firewall, we’re protected, right?


Network security breaches are grabbing headlines routinely. In my dialogs with executives on the subject, they are predictably on high alert, increasingly worried about the financial impact of an attack and worried about incident exposure in the media while struggling to find skilled security personnel.

 I hear this question often, “we have a firewall and we bought market leading technology; we’re protected, right?”

 I think the answer lies within the question itself.

 Anything connected to the internet is subject to constant threat of attack. Simply placing firewalls in a perimeter security model is required but this model isn’t keeping with the times relative to current and evolving threats and to application and use patterns.

 In a local news article published recently, an official asked to see more investigation of how organizations are preventing or mitigating the impact of ransomware attacks as opposed to paying a ransom fee which doesn’t address the inherent vulnerability.


In the interest of brevity given this medium, here are a couple suggestions for starting points to respond to this question:

 1) End-Point Protection – invest in next generation threat prevention software at the end-point. The ratio of dollars invested to prevention gained is excellent. If end points are not secured, it’s safe to say neither is your network. The new technology has long since surpassed the old AV signature model. Invest in new software that can thwart both known and unknown malicious attacks. Taking this step is a big improvement for increasing depth of defense. Third party firms have reviewed and published test results repeatedly and they recommend the best market offerings based on their findings.

 2) Data Center Firewalls –  control points within the data center is arguably where organizations need security the most. Move beyond the perimeter model, identify the entire portfolio or subset of applications critical to your organization and secure them with next generation, application aware firewalls. It’s important to note performance engineering of data center firewalls has complexity beyond speeds and feeds used in the old model of perimeter firewall sizing. Without an inventory of applications and measures of their behavior at the application layer it is impossible to determine how data center firewalls will behave in a specific environment.


” I have a firewall, I am protected, right?”


I say, no.


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