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posted by martyb on Monday June 20 2016, @10:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the One-ring-to-bring-them-all-and-in-the-darkness-bind-them... dept.

From Damien Zammit, we have this fun little tidbit:

Recent Intel x86 processors implement a secret, powerful control mechanism that runs on a separate chip that no one is allowed to audit or examine. When these are eventually compromised, they'll expose all affected systems to nearly un-killable, undetectable rootkit attacks. I've made it my mission to open up this system and make free, open replacements, before it's too late.

The Intel Management Engine (ME) is a subsystem composed of a special 32-bit ARC microprocessor that's physically located inside the chipset. It is an extra general purpose computer running a firmware blob that is sold as a management system for big enterprise deployments.

When you purchase your system with a mainboard and Intel x86 CPU, you are also buying this hardware add-on: an extra computer that controls the main CPU. This extra computer runs completely out-of-band with the main x86 CPU meaning that it can function totally independently even when your main CPU is in a low power state like S3 (suspend).

On some chipsets, the firmware running on the ME implements a system called Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT). This is entirely transparent to the operating system, which means that this extra computer can do its job regardless of which operating system is installed and running on the main CPU.

The purpose of AMT is to provide a way to manage computers remotely (this is similar to an older system called "Intelligent Platform Management Interface" or IPMI, but more powerful). To achieve this task, the ME is capable of accessing any memory region without the main x86 CPU knowing about the existence of these accesses. It also runs a TCP/IP server on your network interface and packets entering and leaving your machine on certain ports bypass any firewall running on your system.

Yeah, and I'm sure they pinky-swear never to allow the NSA access to any computer via it. I'll be using AMD from now on, slower or not, thanks.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DannyB on Monday June 20 2016, @04:26PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 20 2016, @04:26PM (#362954) Journal

    You're right. And something else about that occurred to me in the last few weeks.

    You once could remove the batteries from your phone. Not anymore.

    Gee, I wonder why?

    A large Starlink satellite constellation will be a smashing success!
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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bob_super on Monday June 20 2016, @05:27PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Monday June 20 2016, @05:27PM (#362975)

    You're not paranoid enough: We're now allowed to use cell phones in airplanes... soon there won't be an "Airplane mode" way to allegedly disconnect from the world.
    And your phone "always listening" is touted as a feature (because a push-to-talk button was obviously too expensive).

    Sweet dreams, in your Faraday cage.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20 2016, @06:38PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20 2016, @06:38PM (#362996)

      Note: airplane mode still allows one to make emergency calls, so it's not actually disabling the cell connection.

  • (Score: 2) by linuxrocks123 on Monday June 20 2016, @05:34PM

    by linuxrocks123 (2557) on Monday June 20 2016, @05:34PM (#362978) Journal

    You can't remove the batteries from some phones because a recent fad is phones being as thin as possible, and the standard battery-phone interface was making that more difficult.

    I can still remove the battery from my phone. I also have A PHYSICAL KEYBOARD! WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT A SUPER-POWERFUL COMMUNICATION-ORIENTED COMPUTER WITHOUT A DAMN KEYBOARD? I also have an SD card slot! YAY! My phone also has quadband GSM, and I think every UMTS/HSPA band there is, too, but I'm not sure. It's got a hell of a lot of them anyway.

    It has Android 2.3, which isn't ideal, but, well, at least it was rootable. The phone was manufactured 2012-2013 -- they just used a then-ancient Android build for some reason. It's not a popular phone so the only upgrade path was random uploads to XDA Developers, and I decided not to risk it. Everything I use works with Android 2.3, and some things -- Google Maps Navigation in particular -- actually work better with Android 2.3. Knock on wood things keep working.

    The biggest pain is no LTE, which is a bigger pain for me than most because they added LTE but not 3G where I live, so I'm stuck with EDGE. But I mostly need lots of data when traveling anyway, so not a big deal. EDGE works fine for navigation. Battery, well, it usually lasts the whole day but heavy use even for 30 minutes can change that. I haven't replaced the battery and have had it for 3 years now, so maybe I should do that soon.

    It's a Huawei U8730. It's also called the T-Mobile myTouch Q 2, note the 2, but there's another phone with almost exactly the same branded name, so, if you want it, look for Huawei U8730. I bought it for a little over $100 in 2013; it's $40 or less now on eBay. If mine breaks, I may very well get another one.