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Researchers find new Intel security vulnerability that is “impossible to fix”

Researchers claim to have found a new security vulnerability inside the ROM of the Intel Converged Security and Management Engine (CSME) that is impossible to fix since firmware errors are hard-coded into the Mask ROM of Intel microprocessors allowing processors to be compromised at hardware level.

The latest security vulnerability of Intel processors was found by the research group Positive Technologies, who claims to have discovered an error in Intel hardware, as well as in the Intel CSME firmware. Intel CSME loads and verifies all other firmware for modern platforms, such as UEFI BIOS firmware using BootGuard and the firmware of the Power Management Controller during initial authentication of Intel-based systems.

Even more worrying is that Intel CSME is the basis for hardware security developed by Intel and is implemented in Intel systems everywhere. Intel tried to make the CSME as secure as possible by designing CSME firmware so that even arbitrary code execution in the firmware would not jeopardize the root cryptographic key.

However, according to Positive Technologies, the weakness in the CSME firmware boot ROM allows an early-stage vulnerability to enable reading of the Chipset Key and generation of all other encryption keys. With access to the key for the Integrity Control Value Blob (ICVB), attackers are able to find the code of any Intel CSME firmware module in a way that authenticity checks are unable to detect.

This security vulnerability found by Positive Technologies affects the intel CSME boot ROM found inside all Intel chipsets and SoCs currently available except 10th generation Ice Lake. Positive Technologies said “We will provide more technical details in a full-length white paper to be published soon. We should point out that when our specialists contacted Intel PSIRT to report the vulnerability, Intel said the company was already aware of it.”

KitGuru says: Over the past year or so, users of Intel processors have been faced with numerous security vulnerabilities potentially threatening the security of systems. It is worrying for Intel CPU users to think that this latest security threat could be impossible to fix. Any of you guys using Intel processors worried about this potential security flaw?

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