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Intel AMT flaw: How are corporate endpoints put at risk?

A recent flaw in Intel's Advanced Management Technology enables hackers to gain access to endpoint devices. Discover how this flaw can be mitigated with expert Judith Myerson.

A flaw in Intel's Advanced Management Technology enables hackers to exploit a simple vulnerability and gain control of corporate laptops. How is this possible, and what is the best way to mitigate the Intel AMT flaw?

Exploiting the flaw in Intel's Advanced Management Technology (AMT) takes a few seconds. An attacker boots up his laptop by pressing CTRL-P, and then logs on to the Intel Management Engine BIOS Extension using admin as the default password. After changing the password, the attacker sets the user opt-in to None and connects to the victim's laptop, bypassing a strong BIOS password and username.

The flaw enables the attacker to remotely access, read and modify data and applications that are assigned to a corporate user, and potentially even transfer them to the attacker's server. Potential victims may be untargeted and merely be located in a waiting room or a public place. If the attacker finds that the victim's laptop doesn't have AMT, they can then search until a victim whose laptop requires AMT is found.

The best way to mitigate the Intel AMT flaw is to use Microsoft System Center Configuration for laptops connected to a Windows domain. System administrators can use it to:

  • Remotely query all corporate laptops about suspicious passwords.
  • Provision each laptop to require a strong password of 8 or more characters -- a combination of numbers, letters and special characters is strongly recommended -- and establish a policy on how often the password should be changed.
  • Disable AMT for all laptops that don't require it. This means the corporate IT staff will not be able to have remote control over these laptops and will need to find other ways to remotely secure them.

Any laptops found to be affected should be addressed by enterprise security teams, and corporate incident response procedures should be used.

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