Intel is secretly stockpiling masses of its old technology for security research

Computing giant Intel reportedly operates a warehouse somewhere in Costa Rica where it stockpiles its older chips, and makes them available remotely to internal cybersecurity researchers.

Sharing details about Intel’s Long-Term Retention Lab, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) notes that Intel had the idea of having one in mid-2018, and had it up and running before the end of 2019.

Explaining the need for the facility, WSJ says that it helps Intel ensure that its older silicon, which might still be in use in the real-world, isn’t vulnerable to attacks.

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Anders Fogh, a Germany-based senior principal engineer at Intel, told WSJ that the lab has become an integral part of his work, and helps him replicate security flaws reported to Intel by outside researchers through its bug-bounty program.

Indispensable resource

According to WSJ, the warehouse stores around 3,000 pieces of hardware and software, going back about a decade.

Fogh shares that the facility can help him create an exact replica of the system that a security researcher used to find and report a vulnerability.

“I can make an exact replica of the submitting researcher’s system. Same CPU, same operating system version, microcode, BIOS,” said Fogh.

However, sourcing some components was a challenge when Intel originally planned the lab. One such hard to get platform were the Sandy Bridge microprocessors, discontinued in 2013.

“We had to actually go on eBay and start looking for these platforms,” Mohsen Fazlian, general manager of Intel’s product assurance and security unit told the WSJ.

The facility has now become a fundamental part of Intel’s product development, with technical documentation boldly announcing decade-long support for new Intel chips owing to the lab. In fact, Fazlian claims that new chips are sent to the lab even before they are released.

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