Security Experts:

Device Manufacturers Working on Patches for Intel Chip Flaws

Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, HPE, Lenovo, Intel and Panasonic are working on releasing patches for the recently disclosed vulnerabilities affecting Intel CPUs, but it could take a while until firmware updates become available to all customers.

After external researchers identified several potentially serious vulnerabilities affecting its Management Engine (ME) and Active Management Technology (AMT), which allow users to remotely manage computers, Intel has decided to conduct a comprehensive review of the products.

The analysis revealed the existence of several vulnerabilities in ME, Trusted Execution Engine (TXE) and Server Platform Services (SPS). The security holes can be leveraged to impersonate the ME, SPS and TXE services and impact the validity of local security feature attestation, execute arbitrary code without being detected by the user or the operating system, and crash the system or make it unstable.

Exploitation is currently not trivial and an attack often requires local access to the vulnerable device. However, remote hacking over the network may be possible as well in certain circumstances, and researchers warned that attacks may become easier to conduct once repeatable exploits are developed.

Intel has made available firmware patches for device manufacturers using its affected processors, which include some Core, Xeon, Atom, Pentium and Celeron CPUs present in millions of systems.

However, it will take some time until all users will receive the necessary patches. Intel itself only expects to release BIOS updates for its affected NUC, Compute Stick, and Compute Card mini PCs and development kits in December. More than 30 device models are impacted by the vulnerabilities.

Acer has published a list of roughly 240 affected notebooks and desktop PCs, including Packard Bell, Gateway, Aspire, Veriton, TravelMate, Predator, and Extensa models. The company has yet to determine when firmware updates will become available.

Dell has published an advisory for laptops and desktop PCs, and a separate advisory for PowerEdge servers. Over 180 laptops and desktop PCs are affected by the security holes, including many Alienware, Inspiron, Latitude, OptiPlex, Precision, Vostro, and XPS models.

Dell expects to release firmware updates for some of the impacted products next month or in January 2018, but for most systems the target date has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the company has advised users to “ensure that systems are physically secured where possible, and follow good security practices to ensure that only authorized personnel have hands-on access to devices.”

Fujitsu has also published an advisory, informing users that more than 30 of its mainboards, 43 Esprimo desktop PCs, 11 Celsius workstations, 10 Primergy servers, and 67 LifeBook, Stylistic and Celsius laptops and tablets are affected. The vendor’s investigation is ongoing so new models could be added to the list at any time.

Updates are already available for some of the impacted Fujitsu products, but a release date has yet to be confirmed for many of them.

HPE has advised users to install the available firmware updates for affected ProLiant and Synergy servers. The company also pointed out that attacks requiring physical access to the motherboard can be detected using the optional hood latch. In addition, attacks should be blocked by the vendor’s Silicon Root of Trust feature, which ensures that unauthorized firmware cannot be run on a machine.

Lenovo has already released patches for many of its products and more updates are expected to become available this week.

Panasonic has also published an advisory to inform customers that its rugged laptops and tablets are affected by the vulnerabilities in Intel chips. Some of the impacted devices will receive updates in January 2018.

Intel has released a tool that can be used to check if a system is affected by the vulnerabilities.

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Eduard Kovacs is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.