[coreboot] Coreboot Purism BIOS is free? open?

Alberto Bursi alberto.bursi at outlook.it
Sun Dec 24 22:27:28 CET 2017

Meh, Intel ME is necessary for x86 platform initalization. Without ME 
the PC does not start at all.

Anyway, the ME is used to provide third parties control and "security" 
over the user's system by cutting out the middleman (board firmware). 
Due to technical reasons they added all this functionality in a single 
place, because it would be silly to have 3 different hardware backdoors 
when you can just have one doing 3 different things.

On consumer PCs it provides DRM, and on office PCs it provides limited 
(but quite useful) remote management, plus more (it can execute a 
customer's dedicated java applications on its own integrated JVM, for 

For example I've seen some Dell PCs that had integrated some kind of 
third party anti-theft functionality inside their UEFI firmware, where 
you would license a third party software and then connect your PC's UEFI 
firmware to their servers or something, so when it is stolen it can 
still be tracked whenever it connects to the internet again.
Don't know if this feature is using the Intel ME, but it is an example 
of feature the OEM might want to add to their products.

Intel themselves also added random stuff to the ME (like advanced fan 
speed control), just because they had a relatively powerful processor in 
there, so why not add more features to it. see here 

Does the industry ask for this? Maybe. What is sure is that Intel thinks 
that this backdoor thingy offers features their customers want or might 
find interesting to add features to their products. These features 
should be the ones sought after by end users.

And "Customers" in this case is companies designing PCs and embedded 
systems with Intel products. Not people, end users. End users buy 
motherboards or PCs from Intel's customers.

Note that ARM provides TrustZone, which is something like Intel ME, but 
is a generic feature, the OEM can do whatever it wants with it, even 
disable and not use it at all.
AMD mindlessly followed Intel's footsteps by integrating ARM cores 
running the TrustZone feature, and calling this Platform Security Processor.

So it's not just Intel that thinks his customers might want more control 
over the products they sell to the end user. Maybe they are all 
misguided. Maybe not.

Remember, it does not matter what is actually real, but what company 
managers think is real.

There is many people that still thinks that "secret" is "safe", and that 
does not understand that software will have bugs, that it's only a 
matter of time before it becomes vulnerable.

For example, HDCP (HDMI cable antipiracy feature) is still in use even 
if it was (and is) regularly busted by 30$ devices. Not even for 
pirating, usually it is busted because it is causing compatibility 
issues in devices.

The people in charge of government agencies in the US know better, at 
least. They asked for a ME feature to disable it in the hardware with 
High Assurance Platform certification.
And due to Intel being cheap, this switch is available in all MEs after 
version 11, Intel didn't make a custom ME only for the US government. 
Currently it requires using external tools to edit the setting on the 
motherboard's flash chip (or being an OEM), same as the older method of 
nuking modules manually.

I hope I helped you understand the most likely reasons why ME exists.


On 12/24/2017 08:46 PM, echelon at free.fr wrote:
>   By the way you said : "ODMs/OEMs are the real customers of Intel/AMD" and "Intel/AMD serve them law" (which law???)
>   I have a scoop : a friend of mine happened to work in the marketing department of a (very large) OEM, and speaking about ME he told me that Intel OBLIGED them to adopt and integrate the ME! (in the beging the OEM guys were reluctant..)
>   Of course this is only "street whispering" (and I will not force you to buy this..) but, but, as we say in Romanian "there is no smoke without fire..." ;-)
> Just my 2 satoshis..
>    Florentin
> ----- Mail d'origine -----
> De: echelon at free.fr
> À: coreboot at coreboot.org
> Envoyé: Sun, 24 Dec 2017 20:31:53 +0100 (CET)
> Objet: Re : Re: [coreboot] Coreboot Purism BIOS is free? open?
>   No you didn't answer my question Peter, sorry!..
>   I am NOT questioning the "legitimacy" of ME/PSP (be it from a purely corporate/financial point of view..). (By the way I have no "legitimacy" myself to put this question of "legitimacy" to begin with..)
>   I simply don't understand (and this is why I pollute the coreboot ML with this blah-blah..) why ALL (I insist on capital letters _ALL_) the systems (consumer/office even .. industrial..) have to have this kind of .. "technology" activated ALL the time (at least from the Intel/AMD point of view)??
>   For me this is simply irrational!.. Period!..
> (And for the fact that consumer devices outnumber office/industrial/governmental devices, I will belive you when I see REAL statistics, sorry!..)
>    Florentin
> ----- Mail d'origine -----
> De: Peter Stuge <peter at stuge.se>
> À: coreboot at coreboot.org
> Envoyé: Sun, 24 Dec 2017 18:29:48 +0100 (CET)
> Objet: Re: [coreboot] Coreboot Purism BIOS is free? open?
> echelon at free.fr wrote:
>> (can we anymore speak about "owner"?..)
> We can and we must, if we want to own anything at all.
> Don't get tricked into merely consuming services and products;
> take ownership and shape your reality.
> echelon at free.fr wrote:
>> But what has Netflix (or Sony, or the entertainment industry in
>> general...) to LEGALLY gain by strongarming Intel/AMD to keep
>> ME/PSP activated on all x86 platforms (not only consumer ones!..)?
> Philipp Stanner wrote:
>> I don't get it, too.  ME has nothing to do with what you can do
>> with your machine and what it can perform.
>> Even if 90% of users use their machine for multimedia purposes...
> Follow the money. What drives Intel sales? We can't know. Who are the
> strongest partners officially? That would be Microsoft (with Windows)
> and ODMs/OEMs. Intel serves them, by law.
> I guess that consumer devices significantly outnumber office devices.
> That's where the content industry comes into play.
> MSFT wants UEFI Secure Boot, so that OEMs are not required to deliver
> security.
> Content industry wants PAVP, so that hardware owners can not legally
> access unecrypted versions of the content.
> ME is Intel's answer to both those requirements and a few more, as
> described pretty clearly in the PSTR[1] book.
> And the DMCA and EUCD legal foundations align (un?)surprisingly well
> with the technical implementation details.
> //Peter
> [1] http://www.apress.com/9781430265719

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