2

I have an older workstation which, as it boots up, includes a step that allows me to configure an Intel ME engine that is somehow present on the CPU or motherboard. I have the password to access it but the menu itself doesn't really present any interesting options. [I think I had to mess with it once so the fans would run nicely instead of full speed all the time… unclear why that wasn't part of the normal BIOS, but that's not really relevant to this question anyway…]

My understanding is that the Management Engine basically provides super-privileged remote control of a computer, sometimes even when it is otherwise shut down. Such a backdoor is of course controversial; there's computers used by people who aren't their owners, should there be, is it buggy, is it secure, yadda yadda yadda.

But in this case I'm both the user and the owner of the computer.

Is there anything cool I can do with the Management Engine? Like, I imagine there's some sort of protocol the ME uses to connect with basically a "good guys" version of a command/control server of some sort.

Are there any open source projects that provide the "IT department" side of the ME that I could use to remotely administer this once-corporate, now-homelab computer?

1
  • Don't mistake Low-level for super-privledged. remote management engines of this kind are designed to grant access to firmware and power-state configurations, which can conceivably have some impact on the users experience inside windows, but the management engine really is rather limited in terms of what you could do. mostly hardware control. Jun 1 at 4:21
1

I have the Intel Management Engine software on my computers. The user version does not do much. It has been on my Intel computers for well over a decade.

I keep IME Software and Firmware updated via Lenovo Updates and it does not cause any issues at all. If you are perceiving issues with it, try updating it and BIOS also. IME on my computer here.

IME Software: 2112.15.0.2221 IME Firmware: 11.8.83.3874

Here is a very interesting and informative background article the Intel Management Engine Software. The article goes into some explanation of how it is implemented and why it is not part of BIOS.

I think you would need the company software to manage users. I have not see company use of it in my small business consulting (up to 75 users) in the past 2 decades.

It would take some energy and skill to implement the company side. It is not a user tool to control the use of people's computers; it is designed to provide some control over company computer assets if it has been implemented.

Intel Management Engine

The Intel Management Engine (ME), also known as the Intel Manageability Engine,[1][2] is an autonomous subsystem that has been incorporated in virtually all of Intel's processor chipsets since 2008.[1][3][4] It is located in the Platform Controller Hub of modern Intel motherboards.

The Intel Management Engine always runs as long as the motherboard is receiving power, even when the computer is turned off. This issue can be mitigated with deployment of a hardware device, which is able to disconnect mains power.

The Intel ME is an attractive target for hackers, since it has top level access to all devices and completely bypasses the operating system. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has voiced concern about Intel ME and some security researchers have voiced concern that it is a backdoor.

Intel's main competitor AMD has incorporated the equivalent AMD Secure Technology (formally called Platform Security Processor) in virtually all of its post-2013 CPUs.

The subsystem primarily consists of proprietary firmware running on a separate microprocessor that performs tasks during boot-up, while the computer is running, and while it is asleep.[7] As long as the chipset or SoC is connected to current (via battery or power supply), it continues to run even when the system is turned off.[8] Intel claims the ME is required to provide full performance.[9] Its exact workings[10] are largely undocumented[11] and its code is obfuscated using confidential Huffman tables stored directly in hardware, so the firmware does not contain the information necessary to decode its contents

Several weaknesses have been found in the ME. On May 1, 2017, Intel confirmed a Remote Elevation of Privilege bug (SA-00075) in its Management Technology.[37] Every Intel platform with provisioned Intel Standard Manageability, Active Management Technology, or Small Business Technology, from Nehalem in 2008 to Kaby Lake in 2017 has a remotely exploitable security hole in the ME.[38][39] Several ways to disable the ME without authorization that could allow ME's functions to be sabotaged have been found.[40][41][42] Additional major security flaws in the ME affecting a very large number of computers incorporating ME, Trusted Execution Engine (TXE), and Server Platform Services (SPS) firmware, from Skylake in 2015 to Coffee Lake in 2017, were confirmed by Intel on 20 November 2017 (SA-00086).[43][44] Unlike SA-00075, this bug is even present if AMT is absent, not provisioned or if the ME was "disabled" by any of the known unofficial methods.[45] In July 2018 another set of vulnerabilities was disclosed (SA-00112).[46] In September 2018, yet another vulnerability was published (SA-00125).

2
  • 1
    Thanks for the confirmation that there's not much on the user/client side of the ME software, I wasn't sure if I just wasn't finding it. "I think you would need the company software to manage users." — this is what I'm asking about, if there are publicly available or open source versions of the company/server software.
    – natevw
    Jun 1 at 19:49
  • You need to contact Intel for the software - I have not seen it publicly available. It is not user software or for user control of a machine.
    – John
    Jun 1 at 20:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.