Thanks for memory – Alex McDonald – Ep61

At the start of 2018 the technology industry was hit by two new threats unlike anything it had seen before. Spectre and Meltdown used vulnerabilities not in operating system code or poorly written applications, but ones at a much lower level than that.

This vulnerability was not only something of concern to today’s technology providers, but also to those looking at architecting the way technology will work in the future.

As we try to push technology further and have it deal with more data, more quickly than ever before. The technology industry is having to look at ways of keeping up and have our tech work in different ways beyond the limits of our current ways of working. One of these developments is storage class memory, or persistent memory, were our data can be housed and accessed at speeds many times greater than they are today.

However, this move brings new vulnerabilities in the way we operate, vulnerabilities like those exposed by Spectre and Meltdown, but how did Spectre and Meltdown look to exploit operational level vulnerabilities? and what does that mean for our desire to constantly push technology to use data in ever more creative and powerful ways?

That’s the topic of this week’s Tech Interviews podcast, as I’m joined by the always fascinating Alex McDonald to discuss exactly what Spectre and Meltdown are, how they Impact what we do today and how they may change the way we are developing our future technology.

Alex is part of the Standards Industry Association group at NetApp and represents them on boards such as SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association).

In this episode, he brings his wide industry experience to the show to share some detail on exactly what Spectre and Meltdown are, how they operate, what vulnerabilities they exploit, as well as what exactly these vulnerabilities put at risk in our organisations.

We take a look at how these exploits takes advantage of side channels and speculative execution to allow an attacker to access data that you never would imagine to be at risk, and how our eagerness to push technology to its limits created those vulnerabilities.

We discuss how this has changed the way the technology industry is now looking at the future developments of memory, as our demands to develop ever larger and faster data repositories show no sign of slowing down.

Alex shares some insights into the future, as we look at the development of persistent memory, what is driving demand and how the need for this kind of technology means the industry has no option but to get it right.

To ease our fears Alex also outlines how the technology industry is dealing with new threats to ensure that development of larger and faster technologies can continue, while ensuring the security and privacy of our critical data.

We wrap up discussing risk mitigation, what systems are at risk to attack from exploits like Spectre and Meltdown, what systems are not and how we ensure we protect them long term.

We finish on the positive message that the technology industry is indeed smart enough to solve these challenges and how it is working hard to ensure that it can deliver technology to the demands we have for our data to help solve big problems.

You can find more on Wikipedia about Spectre and Meltdown.

You can learn more about the work of SNIA on their website.

And if you’d like to stalk Alex on line you can find him on twitter talking about technology and Scottish Politics! @alextangent

Hope you enjoyed the show, with the Easter holidays here in the UK we’re taking a little break, but we’ll be back with new episodes in a few weeks’ time, but for now, thanks for listening.

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