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Intel's Sandy Bridge processors have a remote kill switch

By Emil ยท 60 replies
Dec 18, 2010
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  1. Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors have a new feature that the chip giant is calling Anti-Theft 3.0. The processor can be disabled even if the computer has no Internet connection or isn't even turned on, over a 3G network. With Intel anti-theft technology built into Sandy Bridge, David Allen, director of distribution sales at Intel North America, told ITBusiness that users have the option to set up the...

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  2. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,415   +145

    Can we just not have one o.o.
    Waste IMO.
  3. mattfrompa

    mattfrompa TS Evangelist Posts: 576   +73

    Yeah I'd rather something like this be implemented in the hard drive instead :/ Which even then. I don;t think there is any way to stop them 100% of the time.
  4. Benny26

    Benny26 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,378   +68

    ooooh sounds abit ify that...If once it's been tripped and you can't get it back..I think i'de be more likely to stay away for the sake of my wallet, just in case there's a costly accident.
  5. Nima304

    Nima304 TS Evangelist Posts: 385   +150

    Can the processors be turned back on after being disabled? Because if so, hackers can still find a way to enable the processor and remove the script which disables it. Also, what if someone decrypts the disable code and manages to transmit it? They could disable any PC they wanted then. Adding on, are the Mac addresses of the computer, which I assume is going to be what is used to find out which PC is which, going to be stored on Intel's servers? If so, hackers could penetrate that database and kill millions of PCs at once. And finally, even if the processor, and even the hard drive was destroyed, someone could remove those two and replace them, then use the motherboard, RAM, case, and GPU to make a cheap laptop anyway, or sell the PC for parts.

    All in all, it's a terrible idea, and I know where Intel got the idea. Microsoft stated that they might work on a feature for Windows that would disallow a computer access to the internet if it was suspected to have a virus installed on it. This would disallow a computer to boot if it was stolen. Pretty much the same thing, right? We can't allow this to happen, Sandy Bridge processors will be several accidents waiting to happen if this feature is implemented.
  6. Cota

    Cota TS Enthusiast Posts: 512   +8

    If the CPU is dead you can still get the HDD, duh!. Also, will it screw the whole PC or just the CPU?
    Instead of making this, they should add a stapler to the CPU, it would be more useful *heavy sarcasm*
  7. What could possibly go wrong.
  8. EDO219

    EDO219 TS Rookie Posts: 212

    Many new cars also have a remote kill-switch in case of theft. Not only are they highly sought after by thieves, but they are immediately stripped down to individual components to conveniently flip for cash with little traceability.

    Even if Intel's kill-switch will eventually be capable of also disabling every major compliant component in a PC, then this too could be bypassed. The thief need only remove all power sources (cable, laptop battery, CMOS) and separate each component before the owner has time to report the theft.

    This security feature worries me. PCs will still be stolen, but now often parted out.
  9. I call BS - c'mon, not only integrating 3G capability inside the chip (a fair amount of real-estate probably), but integrating a 3G *antenna* ... *inside* the chip? Realistically not likely.
  10. Speaking of tinfoil hats, you could just wrap your stolen pc in tinfoil and bugger up the 3g signal
  11. This would mean that thousands of CPUs (every home, every office) would all constantly be holding open a connection to the local 3G Mast. How can the 3G infrastructure possibly handle that? I simply do not believe it. The 'facts' as published have to be wrong or incomplete.
  12. there is a method to create small on chip atenaas .. its done using fractal Geometry. Saw it on NG SIMBT!
    This does stink of BS, tho as wattage is a great concern for all new chips and R-fi is a big power hog. Plus as others have pointed out .. the chip is **** ... its teh data that needs protecting AND HAS VALUE.
  13. So aside from the additional cost and power budget of integrating a 3G radio onto a CPU die, I can think of about a million ways in which this can (and will) go horribly wrong. Some things that hackers can and probably will do with this scheme:

    1: Disable it - I guarantee there will be a hack to disable this mechanism within days of its release.
    2: Fake it - remotely turn off processors for anyone you like.
    3: Steal 3G service - If the CPU has a 3G radio, what's to stop you from using that radio for other purposes?
    4: Hide malware in the new "remote update and patching" capabilities.
    5: Steal PC, buy new CPU, swap "killed" CPU for legit CPU, sell stolen PC. Easy peasy.
    6: Steal the data from the HDD, then sell any non-killed parts separately.

    Not least among my concerns here is how the 3G radio will authenticate. UMTS uses a SIM card (a USIM, to be specific) for authentication; are they going to add a SIM socket to the mobo (in which case you can disable the mechanism by just removing the SIM) or integrate a software-based SIM into the CPU (which will be quickly cloned to steal 3G service)? Alternatively, will it be CDMA-based (no SIM cards) in which case you now have to integrate some kind of secret key onto the CPU - and what do you do in countries that have no cellular networks other than GSM/UMTS?

    Has nobody noticed that PCs tend to be big, heavy, metal boxes? That are grounded? You know, just like a Faraday Cage? How much 3G signal do you really think the CPU will get _inside a faraday cage_, and if it's using an external antenna what's to stop you just breaking that off so it gets no signal?

    This is a horrible idea from the perspectives of security, power consumption, CPU die and overall system cost, user experience, functionality, and potential for abuse - it's such a bad idea that I'm having a hard time even believing this is legit. The black hats are going to have a field day with it...
  14. Mizzou

    Mizzou TS Enthusiast Posts: 783

  15. Computers have enough holes that a 900Mhz-3GHz signal can get in.

    It sounds like the computer would have to be plugged in because there is no way to power the radio otherwise.
  16. Some of you are missing the point. The tech isn't meant to prevent data theft, its meant to deter theft by making Sandy Bridge laptops worth dramatically less once disabled.
  17. Read the Intel White Paper at the above link: The chip can accept an encrypted SMS message IF the computer is equipped with a 3G card. The radio receiver is not in the chip itself, only the ability to accept and act on the encrypted SMS message of an external 3G card receives the message.

    Quick fix? Immediately pull the battery, remove the 3G card, re-power and use the laptop, sans 3G.
  18. EDO219

    EDO219 TS Rookie Posts: 212

    Perhaps relevant to this topic is the fact that any device which connects to a cellular tower (or satellite for that matter) can be physically located via two separate signals in conjunction. Iran has repeatedly used this tactic to pinpoint the location of rebel forces along the shared border with Iraq. So now the rebels can not use cellular devices. heh

    If one ignores the rather Orwellian implications of this practice, then it could be a great way to recover stolen laptops and cell phones.
  19. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    I don't think that you have to be grouped with tin foil hat wearers in order to find the concept of a remote kill switch troubling.

    While I understand the need for a government to have the ability to turn off all the computers at once when the Kuang Grade Mark 11 hits and begins the Cyber War of 2017, I don't have to like it.
  20. omfi, i feeling insecure its just me?

  21. most thiefs steal computers to use/sell and not for hard drive data, if I can remotely turn my laptop into a brick that will be a pretty good deterrent, I think all laptops should have these CPUs and all thiefs should know about it!
  22. this technology is a part of Intel v pro


    Here's an article discussing the "Big Brother" implications of this technology:


    Also note that Intel (an Intel IP) was caught editing the wikipedia vPro article, they removed the information in the privacy concerns section of the article:
  23. I'd use the tinfoil in my hat to make a nice little Faraday cage for the CPU. Just sayin'.
  24. Archean

    Archean TechSpot Paladin Posts: 5,634   +98

    Why not they build something like where as soon as the thief tries to unscrew anything on the notebook or turns it on the notebook just burns itself to ashes? Now that can be a total solution to your theft worries.
  25. this is just so stupid. Well, another strategy to push the price up from Intel. :thumbs up:

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