Saturday, 11 November 2017

Google Working To Remove MINIX-Based ME From Intel Platforms

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: Intel's Management Engine (ME) technology is built into almost all modern Intel CPUs. At the Embedded Linux Conference, a Google engineer named Ronald Minnich revealed that the ME is actually running its own entire MINIX OS and that Google is working on removing it. Due to MINIX's presence on every Intel system, the barebones Unix-like OS is the most widely deployed operating system in the world. Intel's ME technology is a hardware-level system within Intel CPUs that consists of closed-source firmware running on a dedicated microprocessor. There isn't much public knowledge of the workings of the ME, especially in its current state. It's not even clear where the hardware is physically located anymore. What's concerning Google is the complexity of the ME. Public interest in the subject piqued earlier this year when a vulnerability was discovered in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT), but that's just a software that runs on ME--ME is actually an entire OS. Minnich's presentation touched on his team's discovery that the OS in question is a closed version of the open-source MINIX OS. The real focus, though, is what's in it and the consequences. According the Minnich, that list includes web server capabilities, a file system, drivers for disk and USB access, and, possibly, some hardware DRM-related capabilities. It's not known if all this code is explicitly included for current or future ME capabilities, or if it's because Intel simply saw more potential value in keeping rather than removing it.
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