A few years ago, it was discovered that Intel hardware internally runs an internal operating system: MINIX. But this operating system has a purpose,
What is MINIX?
MINIX is a Unix-like operating system created by himself by Andrew Tanembaum, which was designed to teach the subject of operating systems to computer engineering students. This operating system was designed to run on x86 because most Unix systems from the 1980s did not run on PC processors and a Unix license was very expensive.
With the advent of Linux and x86 BSDs in the 1990s, the use of MINIX was forgotten, but it must be taken into account that it is an operating system that was originally designed for the teaching, since it was the software that accompanied the book “Modern Operating Systems: Design and Implementation” by Tanembaum himself.
Intel uses MINIX internally in its processors, something Andrew Tanembaum himself was never aware of until the hacker community exploring the secret recesses of Intel hardware discovered it.
Where is MINIX on your PC with Intel processor?
In fact, MINIX is not inside the Intel processors, but is part of the Media Engine, which takes control of the processor because it is the element with the most privileges in the system, so it is in the system. ‘privilege ring -3.
Privilege or execution rings indicate the hierarchy when it comes to accessing CPU control as well as system resources. Technically, negative rings do not exist and in theory the operating system has the greatest privileges, but there are situations in which the software can take the full power of the processor. That’s why Intel to avoid this created the Media Engine, a processor that works in isolation and in isolation that creates a level of trust or “trust” in the system, which has nothing to do with the usual meaning the word.
When we talk about software trust, we’re not talking about stability, but rather the fact that it doesn’t perform functions that manufacturers don’t want it to do. Thanks to the Media Engine, it is possible to remotely block the use of certain software and even the use of hardware. It is a backdoor that all PCs with an Intel processor have and if we are talking about AMD we have to talk about its platform security processor, but the special thing is that only the Intel Media Engine uses MINIX.
What is MINIX used for in Intel processors?
In order for the Media Engine to perform its function, it must be running an operating system in a completely isolated environment, which means that it cannot do so by accessing system RAM or system storage itself. even. This requires its own RAM and also its own storage, which in this case is located in the Media Engine itself.
The choice of MINIX for Media Engine functions makes sense for Intel, as it is an operating system light enough to fit into the ME’s NAND Flash memory and can be used by the ME in isolation. In addition, its location in the chipset gives access to all the chipset input and output interfaces, including those of the network, which is necessary for the remote control of the system.
If you are terrified of the concept of a backdoor in your
The relationship between MINIX and Intel vPro
Controlling a PC remotely is something that cannot surprise us today. But what if we’re talking about being able to manipulate the BIOS and even install an operating system? Well, this is possible with Intel’s vPro technology, which allows Intel itself and hardware manufacturers to transparently and invisibly manage PCs even when they are in sleep mode.
This can be done remotely thanks to what we have commented on above. In other words, thanks to the Media Engine that MINIX runs. If to this we add that in version 6.0 of its active management technology Intel implemented video keyboard mouse remote control, then remote control becomes totally possible.
In other words, it is the same as remote control software but with a difference, since Intel’s KVM operates at the hardware level. This allows you to control the system even without an operating system in the middle. The reason? It runs its own operating system, MINIX, so it does not need an operating system.
Can I control my PC remotely?
After all these explanations, you will surely wonder if it is possible to control a PC remotely as the manufacturers can do it via the Media Engine. Well yes it is possible to do that but for that you will first need to make sure your CPU supports Intel vPro which is the Intel technology that will allow you to remotely manage the PC.
Once you’ve made sure, you need to go into the system BIOS and make sure you can enable a tab that says BIOS Verbosity. Restart your computer, reenter BIOS, and look for an option titled firmware verbosity O boot verbosity and make sure they are active. By the way, make sure that the install or configure prompt option is also enabled.
The next step is to restart the PC where the following message should appear, press CTRL + P to enter Intel AMP setup which will allow you to configure your PC for remote use. In case it asks you for a password, it is usually “admin” 99% of the time, but without the quotes. From there, you will just have to configure the remote access, as well as the KVM to be able to manage your PC remotely.