Security researchers have found an earlier unidentified feature within the Intel chipsets—that could enable an intruder to capture records from the computer memory. Dubbed Intel VISA (Intel Visualization of Internal Signals Architecture), the feature is said to be a service that is packed by the chipmaker for assessment on the manufacturing lines. Though Intel does not openly reveal the subsistence of Intel VISA and is very secretive regarding it, the professionals were capable of uncovering numerous means to activate the feature on the chipsets and seize the files from the CPU.
According to a presentation made at the ongoing Blackhat Asia 2019 conference, Singapore, by the researchers Maxim Goryachy and Mark Ermolov of Positive Technologies, their use of the Intel chipsets did not need any special equipment or hardware modifications. One of the methods shared by them entailed vulnerabilities mentioned in Intel-SA-00086 advisory that provide admittance to Intel ME (Intel Management Engine), in turn assisting to activate VISA. Admittance to Intel VISA makes the complete data of the computer vulnerable and accessible for the intruder.
Intel underestimated the exploit and stated that the VISA problem needs physical access to the devices and the Intel-SA-00086 susceptibilities have been mitigated already. Nevertheless, the professionals disagreed with remarks of Intel and reportedly stated in an online conversation that the repaired Intel firmware can be demoted utilizing Intel ME, thus making the chipset exposed and allowing access to Intel VISA.
Likewise, when Optane Memory caching SSDs was introduced 2 years ago by Intel, it restricted their support to higher-end and mainstream platforms basically deeming them premium solutions. Whether hybrid storage subsystems were or not ever a privilege of premium PCs is up to dispute (they are in case of iMac AIOs of Apple), but recently Intel extended backing for its Optane Memory caching SSDs to Pentium and Celeron-based desktop systems.