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Intel kill switch code indicates connection to NSA

SearchSecurity, September 1, 2017

Security researchers studying the Intel Management Engine (ME) discovered an undocumented kill switch in the code, as well as references to a National Security Agency program.

Experts have been wary of the Intel ME because it is an embedded subsystem on every chip that essentially functions as a separate CPU, with deep access to system processes, and it could be active even if the system were hibernating or shut off.

Satya Gupta, co-founder and CTO at application security vendor Virsec in San Jose, Calif., said the Intel kill switch "at the chip level may sound nefarious, [and] it's almost inevitable for any technology to have a reboot function if all else fails."

"Technology backdoors are always problematic and a very slippery slope. We've seen this with the encryption debate -- if there's a backdoor, it will almost inevitably get in the wrong hands and become a huge liability," Gupta told SearchSecurity. "And if the U.S. has a backdoor, should this be shared with allies? Will China demand their own backdoors to allow access to their markets?"

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