Researchers have published a report on two hardware bugs that allow programs to steal sensitive data on affected devices, which is “most” devices worldwide.
For crypto users, these bugs are a direct threat to the security of their private keys, making the need for secure hardware storage of crypto funds even more pressing.
How do the bugs work?
The two bugs, known as Meltdown and Spectre, exploit security vulnerabilities in Intel, AMD, and ARM processors in any device, including PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Meltdown affects all devices with Intel chips, which are estimated to be in 90% of all computers (desktop and laptop combined), the BBC reported.
Spectre potentially has an even wider reach, affecting Intel, ARM, and AMD chips in any kind of device. Meltdown and Spectre also work in the cloud.
The BBC also reported that the tech industry kept the threat a secret for up to six months via non-disclosure agreements, but now fears are mounting that public awareness could lead to real-life exploits.
Protecting your funds
Bitcoin core developer Jonas Schnelli referred to the newly reported security flaws in terms of how they affect Bitcoin users, laying out three steps to secure cryptocurrency holdings:
The current privileged memory side channel attacks just confirms what many Bitcoin users already "know" (feel):— Jonas Schnelli (@_jonasschnelli_) January 4, 2018
* Don't trust your PC.
* Don't think applications (and private keys) are shielded
* Use a hardware wallet
Pavol Rusnak, the CTO of TREZOR manufacturer SatoshiLabs, tweeted Jan. 4 to confirm that its devices are unaffected by Meltdown and Spectre, noting:
“Using a (hardware) wallet is now more important than ever.”
As more people are asking: @TREZOR is not vulnerable to recent Meltdown and Spectre hardware attacks, because it has processor not affected by these. Also our firmware is always signed, so the device never runs untrusted code. Using a hw wallet is now more important than ever!— Pavol Rusnak (@pavolrusnak) January 4, 2018
In October 2017, the Ledger Nano S hardware wallet was number eight in the list of top ten best selling items on Amazon’s Computers and Accessories section. Today, Jan.4, the Ledger Nano S is number one.