Intel finds critical holes in Management Engine

A massive security flaw has recently been discovered by intel in its Management Engine (ME), Server Platform Services (SPS), and Trusted Execution Engine (TXE).  There has been discovered not just one but multiple worrying security flaws found by external security experts.

What is worrying about these security flaws are they are below operating system level and therefore are potentially undetectable with virus scanners, or your operating system’s.  This could allow cyber criminals to install exploits on a machine bypassing all installed security.

Intel Management Engine security flaw

Cyber criminals could in fact pose as system admins over networks to install invisible rootkits and spyware.  Also allowing them access to sensitive data through the computer’s memory e.g. passwords and such that are usually encrypted.

This is not just a small problem either this is an exploit that runs through several generations of intel’s processor including the latest 8th Generation Coffee Lake.  It is Intel’s Management Engine that is at the heart of the disclosure by intel.  Although everyday computer users might not even know what this is technically it is like a computer within your computer.

This is barley documented part of a processor as most users would not be aware of its existence.  It sits in the processor and is utilised below operating system level and therefore is a huge security problem.

A spokesman at intel has said

‘In response to issues identified by external researchers, Intel has performed an in-depth comprehensive security review of our Intel Management Engine (ME), Intel Server Platform Services (SPS), and Intel Trusted Execution Engine (TXE) with the objective of enhancing firmware resilience’

What does this mean

The problem with a security issue like this is it effects hundreds and thousands of PC’s throughout the world.  It is also not an easy fix due to the nature of the problem.  Intel has launched a firmware update that you can find at the bottom of this article.  However, messing around with firmware can be a difficult task and not fully update every part of the system.

Users who are not as technical might not even know how or even if they need to fix the problem.  This would lead to thousands of computers staying unfixed.  If you are unfamiliar with technical issues, then I would suggest if you think your computer might be at risk to take it to a computer repair specialist to have your machine checked out.

A List of effected chip sets are

  • 6th 7th and 8th Generation Intel Core processors
  • Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 and v6 processors
  • Intel Xeon Scalable processors
  • Intel Xeon W processors
  • Intel Atom C3000 processors
  • Apollo Lake Intel Atom E3900 series
  • Apollo Lake Intel Pentiums
  • Celeron N and J series processors

What to do if your processor is effect

Intel has advised Microsoft Windows users as well as Linux users to download the Intel Management Engine Critical Firmware Update (Intel-SA-00086).  Click on the link if you think that your processor might be affected and read further.

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