There is mysterious ‘undocumented technology’ hidden on Intel computer chips, researchers say

There is mysterious ‘undocumented technology’ hidden on Intel computer chips, researchers say

Jasper Hamill Thursday 28 Mar 2019 3:06 pm

Computer experts have claimed that the chips which power most of the computers in the world are hiding mysterious and ‘undocumented’ technology.

Analysts from Positive Technologies alleged that Intel chips and processors contain an enigmatic ‘logic signal analyser’ capable of reading ‘almost all data on a computer’.

The claims are likely to alarm conspiracy theorists, even though the research does not prove long-standing rumours that the NSA has hidden ‘back doors’ on computer chips which are used to spy on billions of people.

Maxim Goryachy and Mark Ermolov revealed their findings at the Black Hat Conference, a gathering of hackers and cybersecurity specialists in Singapore.

The analyser was discovered in the Platform Controller Hub (PCH) on Intel motherboards as well as the main processor itself. Together, these parts of the computer serve as its ‘brain’.

It’s called VISA and can potentially allow hackers or spies to access the information stored in the computer memory as well as the information generated by ‘peripherals’ – the name for computer accessories which could include anything from a webcam to a mouse.

The VISA technology was believed to be used to check Intel microchips for flaws, but Positive Technologies suggested it could also be used to ‘capture and analyse’ data.

This ability would be useful to hackers looking to steal information – as well as spies or anyone else interested in stealing sensitive information.

Normally, VISA is turned off in commercial systems. Yet the researchers claimed to have found a way to switch it on.

‘We found out that it is possible to access Intel VISA on ordinary motherboards, with no specific equipment needed,’ said Positive Technologies expert Maxim Goryachy.

Intel told Metro that the VISA vulnerability was real, but said it ‘required physical access’ meaning that hackers couldn’t activate it over the internet and begin stealing information.

However, it said the flaw had been addressed and solved.

‘The Intel VISA issue, as discussed at BlackHat Asia, relies on physical access and a previously mitigated vulnerability,’ Intel told us.

‘Customers who have applied those mitigations are protected from known vectors.’


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