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Intel's new processors have a remote kill switch (Anti-Theft 3.0)

Published: 2010-12-19
Last Updated: 2010-12-19 14:17:39 UTC
by Raul Siles (Version: 2)
7 comment(s)

According to Techspot (Thanks Richard!), Intel's new Core processors (Sandy Bridge), that will hit the market for desktops and laptops early 2011, have a remote kill switch (called Anti-Theft v3.0). This technology embedded in the CPU allows the user to remotely disable the processor through 3G, that is, even when the computer is not connected to the Internet or it switched off.

Intel's goal is to offer the user the capability to shut down remotely the computer if it is lost or stolen. Somehow, this is similar to what most modern mobile device platforms offer today to remotely lock, show a message, or wipe  a stolen or lost device, such as Windows Mobile 6.5, iPhone, iPad... I guess that, in any case, the thief will be able to replace the CPU with a new one and make the computer work again. Will be Intel planning to add remote disk wiping capabilities from the processor too? ;)

Definitely, this new feature is something to pay attention to, as potential vulnerabilities in the implementation can open the door to new remote attacks, starting with DoS. The debate is open!

UPDATE 1:

It seems that the Intel Anti-Theft announcement is creating a significant debate on The Net. This ISC post simply tried to catch your attention about new technologies and features we need to keep an eye on, and it didn't reflect this will be a feature for mass p0wn4g3. Trying to clarify this technology a little bit, Intel Anti-Theft seems to be associated to Intel vPro (TM) CPUs only and the associated chipsets, plus capabilities on the BIOS , firmware/software, and a capable 3G subscription. The kill switch can be reversed (enabling the computer back without physical damage) by providing proper authentication through a 3G heartbeat, a local passphrase or one-time token.

Some extra reading for those interested on this technology:
- http://www.intel.com/en_US/Assets/PDF/general/br_IT_AntiTheft_vPro.pdf?wapkw=(vpro+antitheft)
- http://antitheft.intel.com/Libraries/Documents/Intel_R_Anti-Theft_Technology_-_Technology_Brief.sflb.ashx
- http://download.intel.com/technology/vpro/Whitepaper_AllNew2010IntelCorevProProcessors.pdf

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Raul Siles
Founder and Senior Security Analyst with Taddong
www.taddong.com

Keywords: Intel Remote
7 comment(s)
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