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Report: Every Post-2008 Intel Processor is Remotely Exploitable

A year ago, we reported that a management technology present in all x86 CPUs left them open to remote rootkit attacks. Now, it seems that the same issue – despite Intel being aware of it – is also present in the company’s 7th-generation Kaby Lake processors, according to SemiAccurate.

The issue is caused by Intel’s Management Engine (ME) – present within every Intel processor released since 2008 – which is designed to allow administrators to remotely access and control a PC’s operating system, hard drive, and boot state, even when the target computer is turned off (though still powered and networked).

“[E]very Intel platform with AMT, ISM, and SBT from Nehalem in 2008 to Kaby Lake in 2017 has a remotely exploitable security hole in the ME (Management Engine) not CPU firmware,” reports SemiAccurate’s Charlie Demerjian. “If this isn’t scary enough news, even if your machine doesn’t have SMT, ISM, or SBT provisioned, it is still vulnerable, just not over the network. For the moment. From what SemiAccurate gathers, there is literally no Intel box made in the last 9+ years that isn’t at risk. This is somewhere between nightmarish and apocalyptic.”

“The problem is quite simple, the ME controls the network ports and has DMA access to the system,” Demerjian explains. “It can arbitrarily read and write to any memory or storage on the system, can bypass disk encryption once it is unlocked (and possibly if it has not, SemiAccurate hasn’t been able to 100% verify this capability yet), read and write to the screen, and do all of this completely unlogged. Due to the network access abilities, it can also send whatever it finds out to wherever it wants, encrypted or not.”

Thankfully, though, it seems that Intel is now fixing the vulnerability, nine years later. According to Demerjian, Intel started to roll out firmware fixes on 25th April, with more expected to come, though it is unknown – and probably unlikely – whether older Intel processors with ME will be patched, or even if OEMs will be inclined to push these updates. If you have concerns over Intel’s ME, more information is available over at SemiAccurate.

Ashley Allen

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