For many years users have been complaining about Intel’s Management Engine feature, claiming that it was insecure and demanding that it should be permanently disabled. While it is a crucial component of Intel hardware, handling data streams between processor and external devices, the concern has always been that an attacker could use the remote management feature as a backdoor to gain access to Intel PCs.
The latest organisation to take action is global cybersecurity firm Positive Technologies – by launching its ‘ME Cleaner’, a tool which is capable of crippling but not eliminating the ME. Intel’s response to this initiative was, somewhat surprisingly, to reveal that its ME has contained a secret kill switch all along – possibly introduced originally at the behest of the NSA.
Intel currently only offers the kill switch to an exclusive coterie of motherboard producers, along with rigorous controls and conditions. However, end users can access it via the internet – although there are potential side effects, the most extreme being destruction of the computer. Handle with care!