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Intel Management Engine turned over, thanks to NSA

by on30 August 2017

Researchers hack Intel's back door 

A team of insecurity experts from Positive Technologies has found a way to disable the Intel Management Engine (ME) thanks to the NSA.

For those who came in late, ME is as popular with the IT community as Donald Trump is in Scotland. Most see it as a backdoor, even if Intel advertises it as a "remote PC management" solution. 

For this reason, security experts have been trying for years to find a way to disable the Intel ME component, but have failed. If you disable Intel ME, the computer crashes because it runs initialisation, power management, and launch of the main processor.

However apparently there is a hidden bit inside the firmware code, which when flipped (set to "1") will disable ME after ME has done its job and booted up the main processor.

The bit is labelled "reserve_hap" and a nearby comment describes it as "High Assurance Platform (HAP) enable". High Assurance Platform (HAP) is an NSA program that describes a series of rules for running secure computing platforms.

Researchers believe Intel has added the ME-disabling bit at the behest of the NSA, which needed a method of disabling ME as a security measure for computers running in highly sensitive environments.

Last modified on 30 August 2017
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