Week ahead: World grapples with critical computer flaws

Week ahead: World grapples with critical computer flaws
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The technology industry and organizations worldwide are reeling from the disclosure of two critical computer hardware vulnerabilities that affect scores of modern devices from PCs to smartphones.

Details about the computer processor flaws nicknamed "Meltdown" and "Spectre" came into full focus over the past week and sent programmers at major software companies racing to quickly issue patches to protect affected systems.

The issue was initially believed to only affect Intel processors but actually affects a variety of chip vendors. Intel's stock dropped Thursday as a result of the revelations.

Microsoft, Google and others have issued emergency patches for their systems, though experts say that applying the fixes could considerably slow down operations. Apple confirmed Thursday that the vulnerabilities affect all iPhones, iPads and Mac computers and said the company was releasing patches to mitigate both vulnerabilities.

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Still, experts warn that fully eliminating the threat of Spectre will ultimately warrant a full-fledged redesign of the hardware to boost security.

The revelations are expected to create hurdles for businesses and governments large and small, as organizations rush to make sure their systems are patched and the vulnerabilities cannot be exploited.

James Norton, a former Department of Homeland Security official and cybersecurity expert, said he would expect the Trump administration to issue guidance to expedite patching across agencies.

"The country witnessed the devastating impacts of not implementing security patching with the massive [Office of Personnel Management] hack a few years ago," Norton said.

The coming week is sure to bring further speculation about the congressional and federal investigations into Russian interference.

The New York Times reported late Thursday that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE has discovered that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE tried to prevent Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsConservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ MORE from recusing himself from the investigation even as public pressure mounted for him to do so. Mueller is said to be exploring the issue of obstruction of justice.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have been focusing their attention on anti-Trump text messages exchanged by FBI agents who had been working on the Mueller investigation. The messages were recently uncovered by a Justice Department inspector general probe and have fueled GOP charges of political bias at the FBI and on Mueller's team.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate House panel advances bill that would temporarily halt ObamaCare's employer mandate Nunes leaves in middle of hearing following questions on Russia probe MORE (R-Calif.) said he reached a deal with the Justice Department this week for access to documents and interviews related to the messages after sending a terse letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinCarl Bernstein: Recent indictments show Mueller probe is 'not a witch hunt' Gowdy rules out Rosenstein impeachment Five things to watch for in Trump-Putin summit MORE. Nunes says the documents and interviews are part of a broader effort by Republicans to investigate the controversial Steele dossier that contains salacious allegations about Trump and Russia.

Off Capitol Hill, the independent Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is hosting a summit on Wednesday on the 2018 midterm elections that is likely to delve into the issue of voting system cybersecurity. There have been efforts in Congress to pass legislation to help state and local officials shore up their systems in the wake of Russia's efforts to target state voting systems, but none have yet proven fruitful.

 

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