Thanks for signing up, a member of the Global PR team will be in touch with you shortly.
The security issue “is almost deceptively simple to exploit, but it has incredible destructive potential,” said Harry Sintonen, who investigated the issue in his role as Senior Security Consultant at F-Secure. “In practice, it can give an attacker complete control over an individual’s work laptop, despite even the most extensive security measures.”
Intel AMT is a solution for remote access monitoring and maintenance of corporate-grade personal computers, created to allow IT departments or managed service providers to better control their device fleets. The technology, which is commonly found in corporate laptops, has been called out for security weaknesses in the past, but the pure simplicity of exploiting this particular issue sets it apart from previous instances. The weakness can be exploited in mere seconds without a single line of code.
The essence of the security issue is that setting a BIOS password, which normally prevents an unauthorized user from booting up the device or making low-level changes to it, does not prevent unauthorized access to the AMT BIOS extension. This allows an attacker access to configure AMT and make remote exploitation possible.
To exploit this, all an attacker needs to do is reboot or power up the target machine and press CTRL-P during bootup. The attacker then may log into Intel Management Engine BIOS Extension (MEBx) using the default password, "admin," as this default is most likely unchanged on most corporate laptops. The attacker then may change the default password, enable remote access and set AMT’s user opt-in to “None.” The attacker can now gain remote access to the system from both wireless and wired networks, as long as they’re able to insert themselves onto the same network segment with the victim. Access to the device may also be possible from outside the local network via an attacker-operated CIRA server.
Although the initial attack requires physical access, Sintonen explained that the speed with which it can be carried out makes it easily exploitable in a so-called “evil maid” scenario. “You leave your laptop in your hotel room while you go out for a drink. The attacker breaks into your room and configures your laptop in less than a minute, and now he or she can access your desktop when you use your laptop in the hotel WLAN. And since the computer connects to your company VPN, the attacker can access company resources.” Sintonen points out that even a minute of distracting a target from their laptop at an airport or coffee shop is enough to do the damage.
Sintonen stumbled upon the issue in July 2017, and notes that another researcher* also mentioned it in a more recent talk. For this reason, it’s especially important that organizations know about the unsafe default so they can fix it before it begins to be exploited. A similar vulnerability has also been previously pointed out by CERT-Bund but with regards to USB provisioning, Sintonen said.
The issue affects most, if not all laptops that support Intel Management Engine / Intel AMT. It is unrelated to the recently disclosed Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.
Intel recommends that vendors require the BIOS password to provision Intel AMT. However, many device manufacturers do not follow this advice. For Intel’s December 2017 advisory regarding this topic, see “Security Best Practices of Intel Active Management Technology Q&A.”
More information: A Security Issue in Intel's Active Management Technology
Nobody has better visibility into real-life cyber attacks than F-Secure. We’re closing the gap between detection and response, utilizing the unmatched threat intelligence of hundreds of our industry’s best technical consultants, millions of devices running our award-winning software, and ceaseless innovations in artificial intelligence. Top banks, airlines, and enterprises trust our commitment to beating the world’s most potent threats. Together with our network of the top channel partners and over 200 service providers, we’re on a mission to make sure everyone has the enterprise-grade cyber security we all need.
Founded in 1988, F-Secure is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Ltd.
Sign up for media information from F-Secure.
Browse through our news by year.
Browse through our news by category.