Home / PC & Laptops / PC vendors scramble as Intel announces vulnerability in firmware – Ars Technica

PC vendors scramble as Intel announces vulnerability in firmware – Ars Technica

Enlarge / All the Cores are affected by a major vulnerability in management firmware—as are Xeon servers and Atom, Celeron and Pentium devices.

Intel has issued a security alert that management firmware on a number of recent PC, server, and Internet-of-Things processor platforms is vulnerable to remote attack. Using the vulnerabilities, the most severe of which was uncovered by Mark Ermolov and Maxim Goryachy of Positive Technologies Research, remote attackers could launch commands on a host of Intel-based computers, including laptops and desktops shipped with Intel Core processors since 2015. They could gain access to privileged system information, and millions of computers could essentially be taken over as a result of the bug.

The company has posted a detection tool on its support website for Windows and Linux to help identify systems that are vulnerable. In the security alert, members of Intel’s security team stated that “in response to issues identified by external researchers, Intel has performed an in-depth comprehensive security review of its Intel® Management Engine (ME), Intel® Trusted Execution Engine (TXE), and Intel® Server Platform Services (SPS) with the objective of enhancing firmware resilience.”

Four vulnerabilities were discovered that affect Intel Management Engine firmware versions 11.0 through 11.20. Two were found in earlier versions of ME, as well as two in Server Platform Services version 4.0 firmware and two in TXE version 3.0.

The bugs affect the following Intel CPUs:

  • Intel Core processors from the 6th generation (“Skylake”), 7th generation (“Kaby Lake”), & 8th Generation (“Cannon Lake”) families—the processors in most desktop and laptop computers since 2015;
  • Multiple Xeon processor lines, including the Xeon Processor E3-1200 v5 & v6 Product Family, Xeon Processor Scalable family, and Xeon Processor W family;
  • The Atom C3000 Processor Family and Apollo Lake Atom Processor E3900 series for networked and embedded devices and Internet of Things platforms, and
  • Apollo Lake Pentium and Celeron™ N and J series Processors for mobile computing.

The highest-level vulnerabilities, rated at 8.2 and 7.5 on the Common Vulnerability Security Scale (CVSSv3) respectively, are in the most recent versions of Intel Management Engine. They have the broadest impact on PC users: they allow arbitrary remote code execution and privileged information access. Dell has issued a statement on the MX advisory that lists over 100 affected systems, including a variety of Inspirion, Latitude, AlienWare, and OptiPlex systems; Lenovo has a similarly vast list posted on its site.

The detection tool is meant for enterprises to do widespread checks, but—because it is a command-line tool that generates XML—it is not particularly well suited to consumer self-checks. Intel is directing users to check for firmware updates from their computer’s manufacturer. Dell and Lenovo do not yet have patches available; Dell’s ship dates for new firmware are to be determined, and Lenovo is hoping to have some new firmware available by November 23.

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