Meltdown and Spectre are not the only security problems Intel is facing these days. Today, researchers at F-Secure have revealed another weakness in Intel’s management firmware that could allow an attacker with brief physical access to PCs to gain persistent remote access to the system, thanks to weak security in Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT) firmware—remote “out of band” device management technology installed on 100 million systems over the last decade, according to Intel.
Intel had already found other problems with AMT, announcing last May there was a flaw in some versions of the firmware that could “allow an unprivileged attacker to gain control of the manageability features provided by these products.” Then in November of 2017, Intel pushed urgent security patches to PC vendors for additional management firmware vulnerable to such attacks—technologies embedded in most Intel-based PCs shipped since 2015.
But the latest vulnerability—discovered in July of 2017 by F-Secure security consultant Harry Sintonen and revealed by the company today in a blog post—is more of a feature than a bug. Notebook and desktop PCs with Intel AMT can be compromised in moments by someone with physical access to the computer—even bypassing BIOS passwords, Trusted Platform Module personal identification numbers, and Bitlocker disk encryption passwords—by rebooting the computer, entering its BIOS boot menu, and selecting configuration for Intel’s Management Engine BIOS Extension (MEBx).