Security Market Segment LS
Monday, 08 May 2017 11:03

Intel vPro/AMT computers patching begins – is it too little, too late?

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If you are using Intel’s vPro chips from 2008 to its latest Kaby Lake and have Intel active management technology (AMT) enabled, hackers could breach your networks.

iTWire reported on this issue — now dubbed Silent Bob  with the strongest advice to disable AMT on any Internet connected devices. To say there are millions of enterprise computers affected would be an understatement.

Intel has reacted quickly and implemented a validated firmware update but the catch 22 is that it needs to come from the computer manufacturer – not the chip maker. But the problem is that the vulnerability relies on manufacturers signed patches that may not be ready for weeks or months. Intel is not aware of hackers exploiting it yet.

According to a ssh communications security comprehensive article on the issue, “The exploit is trivial, max five lines of Python could be doable in a one-line shell command. It gives full control of affected machines, including the ability to read and modify everything. It can be used to install persistent malware (possibly in firmware) and read and modify any data.

For security servers, it may allow disabling security features, creating fake credentials, or obtaining root keys.”

The main OEMs are Cisco, HP, HP Enterprise, Lenovo, IBM, SuperMicro, Dell, Oracle, Intel (motherboards) and potentially Apple. But that is the tip of the iceberg as the vulnerability goes back to Intel vPro versions Nehalem released in late 2008 to Intel’s latest Kaby Lake 7th generation processors.

Given the nearly 10 years of vulnerability and the propensity to use white box computers and servers during this time it is likely that only a small percentage will actually ever be patched.

Intel publicly disclosed the AMT security flaw on 1 May and released a downloadable discovery tool a short time later. It also released a mitigation guide, which shows how to disable the AMT, the Intel Standard Manageability (ISM), and Intel Small Business Technology (SBT) software. Disabling these features should keep the systems safe but it is only a short term fix as the features are well used in business.

Chilling is ssh’s comment that you can bet every ATM-enabled system has been compromised by now.

Or Darknet.org’s comment, “This is the scary thing though when hardware manufacturers (without any easy way to patch or address security flaws) deploy completely out-of-band management systems that are TCP/IP enabled and almost definitely have security flaws.”


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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