Intel Active Management Technology
Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) is hardware-based technology for remotely managing and securing PCs out-of-band. Currently, Intel AMT is available in desktops, servers, ultrabooks, tablets, and laptops with Intel Core vPro processor family, including Intel Core i3, i5, i7, and Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 product family.
- 1 Overview of Intel AMT
- 2 Intel AMT features
- 3 Using Intel AMT
- 4 Out-of-band (OOB) communication with AMT
- 5 Intel AMT security measures
- 6 Versions
- 7 Management Engine firmware modules
- 8 Provisioning and integration of Intel AMT
- 9 Security considerations
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Overview of Intel AMT
Intel AMT is hardware and firmware technology that builds certain functionality into business PCs in order to monitor, maintain, update, upgrade, and repair PCs. Intel AMT is part of the Intel Management Engine, which is built into PCs with Intel vPro technology. Intel AMT is designed into a secondary (service) processor located on the motherboard. Intel AMT has moved towards increasing support for DMTF Desktop and mobile Architecture for System Hardware (DASH) standards and AMT Release 5.1 and later releases are an implementation of DASH version 1.0/1.1 standards for out-of-band management. AMT provides similar functionality to IPMI, although AMT is designed for client computing systems as compared with the typically server-based IPMI.
AMT is not intended to be used by itself; it is intended to be used with a software management application. It gives a management application (and thus, the system administrator who uses it) better access to the PC down the wire, in order to remotely and securely do tasks that are difficult or sometimes impossible when working on a PC that does not have remote functionalities built into it.
Hardware-based management and software-based management
Hardware-based (or out-of-band) management is different from software-based (or in-band) management and software management agents. Hardware-based management works at a different level than software applications, uses a communication channel (through the TCP/IP stack) that is different from software-based communication (which is through the software stack in the operating system). Hardware-based management does not depend on the presence of an OS or locally installed management agent.
Benefits of Intel AMT hardware-based management
Hardware-based management has been available on Intel/AMD based computers in the past, but it has largely been limited to auto-configuration using DHCP or BOOTP for dynamic IP allocation and diskless workstations, as well as Wake-on-LAN (WOL) for remotely powering on systems.
Intel AMT features
Intel AMT includes hardware-based remote management, security, power-management, and remote-configuration features. These features allow an IT technician to access an AMT featured PC remotely.
Intel AMT relies on a hardware-based out-of-band (OOB) communication channel that operates below the OS level, the channel is independent of the state of the OS (present, missing, corrupted, down). The communication channel is also independent of the PC's power state, the presence of a management agent, and the state of many hardware components (such as hard disk drives and memory).
Most AMT features are available OOB, regardless of PC power state. Other features require the PC to be powered up (such as console redirection via serial over LAN (SOL), agent presence checking, and network traffic filtering). Intel AMT has remote power-up capability.
Hardware-based features can be combined with scripting to automate maintenance and service.
Hardware-based AMT features in laptop and desktop PCs
Hardware-based AMT features include:
- Encrypted, remote communication channel for network traffic between the IT console and Intel AMT.
- Ability for a wired PC (physically connected to the network) outside the company's firewall on an open LAN to establish a secure communication tunnel (via AMT) back to the IT console. Examples of an open LAN include a wired laptop at home or at an site that does not have a proxy server.
- Remote power up / power down / power cycle through encrypted WOL.
- Remote boot, via integrated device electronics redirect (IDE-R).
- Console redirection, via serial over LAN (SOL).
- Keyboard, video, mouse (KVM) over network.
- Hardware-based filters for monitoring packet headers in inbound and outbound network traffic for known threats (based on programmable timers), and for monitoring known / unknown threats based on time-based heuristics. Laptops and desktop PCs have filters to monitor packet headers. Desktop PCs have packet-header filters and time-based filters.
- Isolation circuitry (previously and unofficially called "circuit breaker" by Intel) to port-block, rate-limit, or fully isolate a PC that might be compromised or infected.
- Agent presence checking, via hardware-based, policy-based programmable timers. A "miss" generates an event; you can specify that the event generate an alert.
- OOB alerting.
- Persistent event log, stored in protected memory (not on the hard drive).
- Access (preboot) the PC's universal unique identifier (UUID).
- Access (preboot) hardware asset information, such as a component's manufacturer and model, which is updated every time the system goes through power-on self-test (POST).
- Access (preboot) to third-party data store (TPDS), a protected memory area that software vendors can use, in which to version information, .DAT files, and other information.
- Remote configuration options, including certificate-based zero-touch remote configuration, USB key configuration (light-touch), and manual configuration.
- Protected Audio/Video Pathway for playback protection of DRM-protected media.
Additional AMT features in laptop PCs
Laptops with AMT also include wireless technologies:
- Support for IEEE 802.11 a/g/n wireless protocols
- Cisco-compatible extensions for Voice over WLAN
Intel vPro platform features
Intel AMT is security and management technology that is built into PCs with Intel vPro technology. PCs with Intel vPro include many other "platform" (general PC features) technologies and features.
Using Intel AMT
Almost all AMT features are available even if PC power is off, the OS is crashed, the software agent is missing, or hardware (such as a hard drive or memory) has failed. The console-redirection feature (SOL), agent presence checking, and network traffic filters are available after the PC is powered up.
Intel AMT supports these management tasks:
- Remotely power up, power down, power cycle, and power reset the computer.
- Remote boot the PC by remotely redirecting the PC’s boot process, causing it to boot from a different image, such as a network share, bootable CD-ROM or DVD, remediation drive, or other boot device. This feature supports remote booting a PC that has a corrupted or missing OS.
- Remotely redirect the system’s I/O via console redirection through serial over LAN (SOL). This feature supports remote troubleshooting, remote repair, software upgrades, and similar processes.
- Access and change BIOS settings remotely. This feature is available even if PC power is off, the OS is down, or hardware has failed. This feature is designed to allow remote updates and corrections of configuration settings. This feature supports full BIOS updates, not just changes to specific settings.
- Detect suspicious network traffic. In laptop and desktop PCs, this feature allows a sys-admin to define the events that might indicate an inbound or outbound threat in a network packet header. In desktop PCs, this feature also supports detection of known and/or unknown threats (including slow- and fast-moving computer worms) in network traffic via time-based, heuristics-based filters. Network traffic is checked before it reaches the OS, so it is also checked before the OS and software applications load, and after they shut down (a traditionally vulnerable period for PCs).
- Block or rate-limit network traffic to and from systems suspected of being infected or compromised by computer viruses, computer worms, or other threats. This feature uses Intel AMT hardware-based isolation circuitry that can be triggered manually (remotely, by the sys-admin) or automatically, based on IT policy (a specific event).
- Manage hardware packet filters in the on-board network adapter.
- Automatically send OOB communication to the IT console when a critical software agent misses its assigned check in with the programmable, policy-based hardware-based timer. A "miss" indicates a potential problem. This feature can be combined with OOB alerting so that the IT console is notified only when a potential problem occurs (helps keep the network from being flooded by unnecessary "positive" event notifications).
- Receive Platform Event Trap (PET) events out-of-band from the AMT subsystem (for example, events indicating that the OS is hung or crashed, or that a password attack has been attempted). You can alert on an event (such as falling out of compliance, in combination with agent presence checking) or on a threshold (such as reaching a particular fan speed).
- Access a persistent event log, stored in protected memory. The event log is available OOB, even if the OS is down or the hardware has already failed.
- Discover an AMT system independently of the PC's power state or OS state. Discovery (preboot access to the UUID) is available if the system is powered down, its OS is compromised or down, hardware (such as a hard drive or memory) has failed, or management agents are missing.
- Perform a software inventory or access information about software on the PC. This feature allows a third-party software vendor to store software asset or version information for local applications in the Intel AMT protected memory. (This is the protected third party data store, which is different from the protected AMT memory for hardware component information and other system information). The third-party data store can be accessed OOB by the sys-admin. For example, an antivirus program could store version information in the protected memory that is available for third-party data. A computer script could use this feature to identify PCs that need to be updated.
- Perform a hardware inventory by uploading the remote PC's hardware asset list (platform, baseboard management controller, BIOS, processor, memory, disks, portable batteries, field replaceable units, and other information). Hardware asset information is updated every time the system runs through power-on self-test (POST).
VNC-based KVM remote control
From major version 6, Intel AMT embeds a proprietary VNC server, so you can connect out-of-band using dedicated VNC-compatible viewer technology, and have full KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) capability throughout the power cycle - including uninterrupted control of the desktop when an operating system loads. Clients such as VNC Viewer Plus from RealVNC also provide additional functionality that might make it easier to perform (and watch) certain Intel AMT operations, such as powering the computer off and on, configuring the BIOS, and mounting a remote image (IDER).
Out-of-band (OOB) communication with AMT
Intel AMT is part of the Intel Management Engine. All access to the Intel AMT features is through the Intel Management Engine in the PC’s hardware and firmware. AMT communication depends on the state of the Management Engine, not the state of the PC’s OS.
As part of the Intel Management Engine, the AMT OOB communication channel is based on the TCP/IP firmware stack designed into system hardware. Because it is based on the TCP/IP stack, remote communication with AMT occurs via the network data path before communication is passed to the OS.
AMT out-of-band (OOB) communication for wired vs. wireless PCs
Intel AMT supports wired and wireless networks. For wireless notebooks on battery power, OOB communication is available when the system is awake and connected to the corporate network, even if the OS is down. OOB communication is also available for wireless or wired notebooks connected to the corporate network over a host OS-based virtual private network (VPN) when notebooks are awake and working properly.
AMT out-of-band (OOB) secure communication outside the corporate firewall
AMT version 4.0 and higher can establish a secure communication tunnel between a wired PC and an IT console outside the corporate firewall. In this scheme, a management presence server (Intel calls this a "vPro-enabled gateway") authenticates the PC, opens a secure TLS tunnel between the IT console and the PC, and mediates communication. The scheme is intended to help the user or PC itself request maintenance or service when at satellite offices or similar places where there is no on-site proxy server or management appliance.
How it works
An AMT PC stores system configuration information in protected memory. For PCs version 4.0 and higher, this information can include the name(s) of appropriate "whitelist" management servers for the company. When a user tries to initiate a remote session between the wired PC and a company server from an open LAN, AMT sends the stored information to a management presence server (MPS) in the "demilitarized zone" ("DMZ") that exists between the corporate firewall and client (the user PC's) firewalls. The MPS uses that information to help authenticate the PC. The MPS then mediates communication between the laptop and the company’s management servers.
Because communication is authenticated, a secure communication tunnel can then be opened using TLS encryption. Once secure communications are established between the IT console and Intel AMT on the user's PC, a sys-admin can use the typical AMT features to remotely diagnose, repair, maintain, or update the PC.
Intel AMT security measures
Because AMT allows access to the PC below the OS level, security for the AMT features is a key concern.
Security for communications between Intel AMT and the provisioning service and/or management console can be established in different ways depending on the network environment. Security can be established via certificates and keys (TLS public key infrastructure, or TLS-PKI), pre-shared keys (TLS-PSK), or administrator password.
Security technologies that protect access to the AMT features are built into the hardware and firmware. As with other hardware-based features of AMT, the security technologies are active even if the PC is powered off, the OS is crashed, software agents are missing, or hardware (such as a hard drive or memory) has failed.
Using AMT in a secure network environment
Because in-band remote management does not usually occur over a secured network communication channel, businesses have typically had to choose between having a secure network or allowing IT to use remote management applications without secure communications to maintain and service PCs.
Modern security technologies and hardware designs allow remote management even in more secure environments. For example, Intel AMT supports IEEE 802.1x, Preboot Execution Environment (PXE), Cisco SDN, and Microsoft NAP.
All AMT features are available in a secure network environment. With Intel AMT in the secure network environment:
- The network can verify the security posture of an AMT-enabled PC and authenticate the PC before the OS loads and before the PC is allowed access to the network.
- PXE boot can be used while maintaining network security. In other words, an IT administrator can use an existing PXE infrastructure in an IEEE 802.1x, Cisco SDN, or Microsoft NAP network.
Intel AMT in a secured network environment: how it works
Intel AMT can embed network security credentials in the hardware, via the Intel AMT Embedded Trust Agent and an AMT posture plug-in. The plug-in collects security posture information, such as firmware configuration and security parameters from third-party software (such as antivirus software and antispyware), BIOS, and protected memory. The plug-in and trust agent can store the security profile(s) in AMT's protected, nonvolatile memory, which is not on the hard disk drive.
Because AMT has an out-of-band communication channel, AMT can present the PC's security posture to the network even if the PC's OS or security software is compromised. Since AMT presents the posture out-of-band, the network can also authenticate the PC out-of-band, before the OS or applications load and before they try to access the network. If the security posture is not correct, a system administrator can push an update OOB (via Intel AMT) or reinstall critical security software before letting the PC access the network.
Security postures supported by Intel AMT versions
Support for different security postures depends on the AMT release:
- Support for IEEE 802.1x and Cisco SDN requires AMT version 2.6 or higher for laptops, and AMT version 3.0 or higher for desktop PCs.
- Support for Microsoft NAP requires AMT version 4.0 or higher.
- Support for PXE boot with full network security requires AMT version 3.2 or higher for desktop PCs.
Intel AMT security technologies and methodologies
AMT includes several security schemes, technologies, and methodologies to secure access to the AMT features during deployment and during remote management. AMT security technologies and methodologies include:
- Transport Layer Security, including pre-shared key TLS (TLS-PSK)
- HTTP authentication
- Single sign-on to Intel AMT with Microsoft Windows domain authentication, based on Microsoft Active Directory and Kerberos
- Digitally signed firmware
- Pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) which generates session keys
- Protected memory (not on the hard disk drive) for critical system data, such as the UUID, hardware asset information, and BIOS configuration settings
- Access control lists (ACL)
As with other aspects of Intel AMT, the security technologies and methodologies are built into the chipset.
Management Engine firmware modules
- Active Management Technology (AMT)
- Alert Standard Format (ASF)
- Quiet System Technology (QST), formerly Advanced Fan Speed Control (AFSC)
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
Provisioning and integration of Intel AMT
AMT supports certificate-based or PSK-based remote provisioning (full remote deployment), USB key-based provisioning (“one-touch” provisioning), manual provisioning and provisioning using an agent on the local host ("Host Based Provisioning"). An OEM can also pre-provision AMT.
The current version of AMT supports remote deployment on both laptop and desktop PCs. (Remote deployment was one of the key features missing from earlier versions of AMT and which delayed acceptance of AMT in the market.) Remote deployment, until recently, was only possible within a corporate network. Remote deployment lets a sys-admin deploy PCs without “touching” the systems physically. It also allows a sys-admin to delay deployments and put PCs into use for a period of time before making AMT features available to the IT console. As delivery and deployment models evolve, AMT can now be deployed over the Internet, using both "Zero-Touch" and Host-Based methods.
Intel vPro PCs can be sold with AMT enabled or disabled
PCs with Intel AMT can be sold with AMT enabled or disabled. The OEM determines whether to ship AMT with the capabilities ready for setup (enabled) or disabled. Your setup and configuration process will vary, depending on the OEM build.
Intel AMT includes a Privacy Icon application, called IMSS, that notifies the system's user if AMT is enabled. It is up to the OEM to decide whether they want to display the icon or not.
Disabling and re-enabling Intel AMT
Disabling Intel AMT
AMT can be partially unprovisioned using the Configuration Settings, or fully unprovisioned by erasing all configuration settings, security credentials, and operational and networking settings; or by resemotherboard.
A partial unprovisioning leaves the PC in the setup state. In this state, the PC can self-initiate its automated, remote configuration process. A full unprovisioning erases the configuration profile as well as the security credentials and operational / networking settings required to communicate with the Intel Management Engine. A full unprovisioning returns Intel AMT to its factory default state.
Re-enabling Intel AMT
Once AMT is disabled, in order to enable AMT again, an authorized sys-admin can reestablish the security credentials required to perform remote configuration by either:
- Using the remote configuration process (full automated, remote config via certificates and keys). This probably means that AMT is always listening to open ports to the wild and cannot be disabled at all.
- Physically accessing the PC to restore security credentials, either by USB key or by entering the credentials and MEBx parameters manually.
Returning AMT to factory default
There is a way to totally reset AMT and return in to factory defaults. This can be done in two ways:
Setup and integration tools
Setup and integration of Intel AMT is supported by a setup and configuration service (for automated setup), an AMT Webserver tool (included with Intel AMT), and AMT Commander, an unsupported and free, proprietary application available from the Intel website.
The management controller for AMT is embedded in the northbridge of the motherboard for recent versions, or network card for AMT 1.0 (as compared with e.g. typical IPMI implementations where the management controller is a discrete part). On current Intel chipsets, an ARC4 RISC microcontroller running the Nucleus RTOS is used as the service processor.
|This section may require copy-editing. (November 2013)|
From Vassilios Ververis' master's thesis, referenced as 'another evaluation' in 2, above ...
- 1.2 Problem to be addressed by this thesis project
- Intel AMT is an out-of-band remote management technology making use of a dedicated communication channel which is embedded in Intel AMT enabled chipsets located on the north-bridge part of the motherboard. This technology is mainly designed to assist system administrators and IT managers to remotely maintain, repair, update, monitor, and upgrade networked computers without requiring on- site technical support or user actions. ...
- Unfortunately this technology can provide a powerful backdoor to the managed platform that is fully operational and accessible, even while the PC is turned off. The problem to be addressed on this thesis is the fundamental security vulnerabilities found in the authentication schema, the remote provisioning mechanism, and the mobile version in terms of the new attacks vectors that they introduce to the Intel AMT platform.
- 1.5 Thesis structure
- In the third chapter ... we present a way of exploiting the built-in support for provisioning thus exploiting remote provision to avoid the need for any physical access to the targeted computer.
- We clearly present how easily the AMT protection technology can be circumvented even while the AMT functionality is disabled.
- Additionally, we present some potential attack vectors on the mobile version of this platform classifying these as confidentiality, integrity, and availability attacks.
- 4.1 Conclusions
- A vicious employee, organization, or even an OEM can "accidentally" force a rigorous configuration customized to his needs in order to completely control the AMT platform, thus gaining (and maintaining) complete control of the computer system. As a result it is possible to install a powerful rootkit (i.e AMT) over the Internet ...
- Unfortunately today AMT is shipped on "home" PCs and as we previously discussed the insecurities of this embedded device are scary, especially as IT administrators, end customers of PCs, notebooks, and servers are unfamiliar with this technology, thus malicious persons could remotely manipulate these systems. ...
- Relationships between Intel vPro, AMT, Intel Centrino 2, and Intel Core 2
- Intel AMT versions
- Intel vPro
- Intel Core 2
- Intel Centrino 2
- Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF)
- Alert Standard Format (ASF)
- Desktop and mobile Architecture for System Hardware (DASH)
- Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI)
- Baseboard management controller (BMC)
- Host Embedded Controller Interface (HECI)
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
- Northbridge (computing) (NB)
- Southbridge (computing) (SB)
- I/O Controller Hub (ICH)
- Out-of-band management
- Lights out management
- HP Integrated Lights-Out (HP/Compaq specific)
- Intel CIRA
- "Intel Centrino 2 with vPro Technology and Intel Core2 Processor with vPro Technology" (PDF). Intel. 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-03-20. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
- "Architecture Guide: Intel Active Management Technology". Intel. 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- "Remote Pc Management with Intel's vPro". Tom's Hardware Guide. Retrieved 2007-11-21.
- "Intel vPro Chipset Lures MSPs, System Builders". ChannelWeb. Retrieved August 2007.
- "Intel Mostly Launches Centrino 2 Notebook Platform". ChannelWeb. Retrieved July 2008.
- "Intel Centrino 2 with vPro Technology" (PDF). Intel. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 v3 Product Family Product Brief
- "Intel AMT implementation and reference guide".
- "Revisiting vPro for Corporate Purchases". Gartner. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
- "Measuring the Value of Intel Core2 Processor with vPro Technology in the Enterprise". Intel. 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-14.[dead link]
- "A new dawn for remote management? A first glimpse at Intel's vPro platform". ars technica. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
- "Intel vPro Technology". Intel. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- "Intel Active Management Technology System Defense and Agent Presence Overview" (PDF). Intel. 2007-02. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- "Intel Centrino 2 with vPro Technology". Intel. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- "New Intel-Based Laptops Advance All Facets of Notebook PCs". Intel. Archived from the original on 2008-07-17. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
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- "Technical Considerations for Intel AMT in a Wireless Environment". Intel. 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- "Intel Active Management Technology Setup and Configuration Service, Version 5.0" (PDF). Intel. Retrieved 2008-08-04.(see CIRA configuration discussion)
- "Intel AMT - Fast Call for Help". Intel. 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2008-08-17.(Intel developer's blog)
- "New Intel vPro Processor Technology Fortifies Security for Business PCs (news release)". Intel. 2007-08-27. Archived from the original on 2007-09-12. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
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- "Cisco Security Solutions with Intel Centrino Pro and Intel vPro Processor Technology" (PDF). Intel. 2007.
- Product and Performance Information
- "Part 3: Post Deployment of Intel vPro in an Altiris Environment: Enabling and Configuring Delayed Provisioning". Intel (forum). Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Active Management Cloud Overview
- "Intel vPro Provisioning" (PDF). HP (Hewlett Packard). Retrieved 2008-06-02.
- "vPro Setup and Configuration for the dc7700 Business PC with Intel vPro Technology" (PDF). HP (Hewlett Packard). Retrieved 2008-06-02. Note: large document
- "Part 4: Post Deployment of Intel vPro in an Altiris Environment Intel: Partial UnProvDefault". Intel (forum). Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Intel Active Management Technology
- Intel Manageability Developer Community
- Intel vPro Expert Center
- Intel AMT Open Source Drivers and Tools
- Intel 82573E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (Tekoa)
- ARC4 Processor
- AMT videos (select the desktop channel)
- Intel AMT Client - Radmin Viewer 3.3
- Intel vPro/AMT as a hardware antivirus
- AMT Over the Internet Provisioning (OOB Manager)