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New and unfixable Intel chip flaw discovered putting PCs at risk of attack

Yet another Intel chip-level security flaw uncovered. (Source: Intel)
Yet another Intel chip-level security flaw uncovered. (Source: Intel)
Intel has had a rough trot with chip-level security flaws in the past couple of years and it seemed as though it had gotten on top of them. Unfortunately, security researchers have discovered a new chip-level vulnerability affecting most Intel CPUs made in the past five years but this time it doesn’t look like a software patch will fix it.
Sanjiv Sathiah,
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Intel has been having a hard time of it lately on multiple fronts and just when it thought it had fixed CPU level vulnerabilities with firmware patches for malware attacks from Meltdown, Spectre and Zombieload, researchers from Positive Technologies have discovered a new hardware level vulnerability. This time, however, the researchers say that it is so deep, that not even a firmware patch will be able to alleviate it in full. The new vulnerability affects most Intel silicon fabricated in the past five years and, according to researchers, “destroys the chain of trust for the platform as a whole”.

The vulnerability exists in the ROM of Intel’s Converged Security and Management Engine (CSME). As there is error in the earliest stages of the subsystem’s operation and in its boot ROM, it compromises entire trust platform. This is because the CSME is “the cryptographic basis for hardware security technologies developed by Intel and used everywhere, such as DRM, fTPM and Intel Identity Protection”. Regardless of any measures that Intel might deploy on a software level, the vulnerability leaves open a hole that authenticity checks will be unable to detect.

On the plus side, most potential attacks would need to be made on a system in person with a platform device capable of performing DMA to Intel CSME static memory resetting it. This would allow the hacker to modify system tables for Intel CSME pages and thus taking over control of the execution flow. Intel’s promised hardware level fixes haven’t come in time for its 9th generation silicon but have been implemented in its 10th generation chips. Although unlikely to affect in a widespread attack, it is yet another embarrassing misstep for Team Blue.

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Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - Senior Tech Writer - 1203 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2017
I have been writing about consumer technology over the past ten years, previously with the former MacNN and Electronista, and now Notebookcheck since 2017. My first computer was an Apple ][c and this sparked a passion for Apple, but also technology in general. In the past decade, I’ve become increasingly platform agnostic and love to get my hands on and explore as much technology as I can get my hand on. Whether it is Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation, each has plenty to offer and has given me great joy exploring them all. I was drawn to writing about tech because I love learning about the latest devices and also sharing whatever insights my experience can bring to site and its readership.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 03 > New and unfixable Intel chip flaw discovered putting PCs at risk of attack
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2020-03- 7 (Update: 2020-03- 8)