The steps you should take to protect yourself are no different than what you should be doing anyway: back up, avoid malware, and keep your software up-to-date:
- Back up: I have written often regarding how vital a robust back up strategy is. Backing up protects you against both malware and hardware failures. If you aren’t backing up, you are playing with fire.
- Avoid malware: For Spectre, Meltdown, or any other vulnerability for that matter to be exploited, malware has to find its way into your computer. No malware, no problems. Be sure you have a good antivirus program and watch out for email attachments and bogus websites.
- Keep software current: Keeping up with updates is for sure a pain, but is vital in keeping your systems as safe as possible. But you must be careful to make sure the update notifications are legitimate, and not a ruse to get you to install malware. In general, if the updates are either from known large companies like Microsoft and Apple or for software you know is installed and legitimate, and the update notifications arrive via normal channels, then they should be legitimate and you should install them. Of course, before you install anything, make sure your back ups are current!
There have been reports of the Spectre and Meltdown patches causing varying degrees of performance degradation, but I doubt many of us will notice anything, and I expect the fixes will become less impactful with the benefit of more time for the experts to improve them.