MINIX – The most widely used operating system in the world

Most probably you have never heard of the operating system (OS) called MINIX. You would think that such a bold claim as MINIX being the most widely used OS in the world is simply not true. How could it be? Aren’t Windows, Mac OS or Linux the most prevalent operating systems (OS) in the world, in that order? Well, you are wrong, but far from being alone in believing so.

Even the co-author of first MINIX OS version, prof. Andrew Tanenbaum, didn’t have a clue that his work in the field was going to be used for private, uncertain and suspicious purposes[1]:

»I knew that Intel had some potential interest in MINIX several years ago when one of your engineering teams contacted me about some secret internal project and asked a large number of technical questions about MINIX, which I was happy to answer. I got another clue when your engineers began asking me to make a number of changes to MINIX, for example, making the memory footprint smaller and adding #ifdefs around pieces of code so they could be statically disabled by setting flags in the main configuration file. This made it possible to reduce the memory footprint even more by selectively disabling a number of features not always needed, such as floating point support. This made the system, which was already very modular since nearly all of the OS runs as a collection of separate processes (normally in user mode), all of which can be included or excluded in a build, as needed, even more modular.

After that intitial burst of activity, there was radio silence for a couple of years, until I read in the media (see above) that a modified version of MINIX was running on most x86 computers, deep inside one of the Intel chips. This was a complete surprise…«

Yes, you read that right. According to prof. Tanenbaum, he unknowingly assisted Intel ( largest CPU producer in the world) in developing parts of code that would later be known as MINIX OS, running on a separate CPU in parallel to the main CPU. Astonishing disclosure, don’t you think?

So what is this all about? Technically, it is about previously secret and powerful control mechanism in all machines with Intel x86 processors. This control mechanism is a piece of software running on a separate chip and is called Intel Management Engine (ME)[2]. Intel ME can also run when the platform is shut down, is more privileged than any system software running on the platform and can access (read or write) any of the host’s memory, unconstrained by anything.

Another author Damien Zammit also wrote about this saying[3]:

»When you purchase your system with a mainboard and Intel x86 CPU, you are also buying this hardware add-on: an extra computer that controls the main CPU. This extra computer runs completely out-of-band with the main x86 CPU meaning that it can function totally independently even when your main CPU is in a low power state like S3 (suspend).

On some chipsets, the firmware running on the ME implements a system called Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT). This is entirely transparent to the operating system, which means that this extra computer can do its job regardless of which operating system is installed and running on the main CPU.«

He further explains that ME can access any memory region without the main CPU knowing about such access, confirming ME’s functionality just described previously. Even more, Damien writes of ME controlling the network traffic on the most fundamental hardware level so it can bypass any firewall running on your system. In simple words, this two facts together mean ME / Intel can access anything stored on your machine and send it to the designated »mothership«. It also means Intel has left a so-called back-door entrance to any machine equipped with a x86 CPU by design.

What about AMD’s processors, are they any different? I don’t think so. The AMD Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) line of microprocessors have a similar feature, where they embed an extra ARM-based microcontroller, but this time directly on the CPU die. Amazingly enough, that technology is advertised as »TrustZone« by AMD. But like its Intel counterpart, no one really knows what it does. And no one has access to the source code in order to analyze the exploit surface it adds to your computer.

What proves the firmware running on your Ethernet or Wireless NIC is not spying on you and transmitting data through some hidden channel? Why can’t Intel ME (or AMD surrogate) be disabled or uninstalled? Why is Intel ME not allowed to be audited and how can a company bypass governmental audit rules?

The idea of the NSA putting hardware in every computer sounds absurd, until you realize it actually happened. It essentially means your data are not safe even though you might have encrypted hard disk. It also means you can not hide anything on your computer and you can not conceal your internet actions. Digital privacy is just another myth, apparently, memorize that before you connect to the web next time.

 

 

 

 

PS: Interesting to note was insane behavior of my laptop for the whole few days as I was researching and writing this text. Bluescreen system shutdowns, sudden updates, suspended WiFi connection hundreds of times and being unable to load a picture to WordPress are just a few challenges I had to deal with. Some still persist.

 


Footnotes:

[1] “An Open Letter to Intel”, prof. Andy Tanenbaum, https://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/intel/

[2] “Intel x86 considered harmful”, https://blog.invisiblethings.org/papers/2015/x86_harmful.pdf , Joanna Rutkowska, 2015

[3] »Intel x86s hide another CPU that can take over your machine (you can’t audit it)«, Damien Zammit, https://boingboing.net/2016/06/15/intel-x86-processors-ship-with.html

 

4 thoughts on “MINIX – The most widely used operating system in the world

  1. You’ve done a great service – I figured something like this is going on although I would never be able to nail it down like you did. Big Brother is watching or shall I say Big Sister (in the age of woman pushed as warrior), and you experienced the consequences of what happens when one starts digging. When “The Cloud” was created, my son said it right – more surveillance. How could there ever be a “revolution” or massive awakening when we are chained and held prisoner in every walk of life. I always want to start my emails or comments with “Hello NSA”. I know that they don’t care about a nobody like me, but I believe the technology you describe is all about nipping in the bud any authentic, independent grass roots organizing or dissent. Freedom in this type of environment is non existent so I’ll have to keep plugging away at inner freedom because TPTB can never touch that place, never.

    Great information, as always, Vexman.

    Susan Grace

    Like

    1. Hi Susan, long time no see, I hope you’re fine and well. In the age of information overdose, with unthinkable data streaming from and toward users of internet, PTB know they need to monitor as much as they can. And it seems they want to verify 100% of all data before letting us use it. Why? In my opinion because they’re scared as little chickens – we’ve never been more interconnected in our modern-day history than we actually are for the last two decades. The only problem is that vast majority of internet users still use it as a freeway for extra entertainment instead as a source for actual learning and spreading the truth. But I don’t blame them for doing so, memories of my past life when I was unaware and ignorant about the true reality are still very much alive. And it was a bitter pill to swallow, knowing everything I know now made me change my life and how I approach it. Wasn’t easy in the beginning as realizing I’ve been fooled zillion times in short time isn’t easy to accept. What you do with all that info afterwards is really important, but it demands understanding that almost every aspect of modern-day life has been manufactured or scripted. And that’s the hardest part, but essential in the process of waking up. That’s one of the reasons why PTB have hidden mechanisms of control into devices we use to communicate with each other – they’re constantly monitoring how awaken society is and doing everything to bury us in propaganda, entertainment and sexuality so we’d remain dormant. If people are in a state of trance, they can steal and manipulate ad infinitum. Perverse plan, I know, but you have to admit it’s working for vast majority of people, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m actually not the first to notice since the co-author of MINIX made an open letter to Intel public. There’s a link to it in the footnotes, if you want to read it by yourself in its entirety.

      How MINIX and Intel ME got where they are? The answer is simple – Intel put it there on purpose, very likely on demand from real Intelligence service, like CIA or NSA or whatever. PTB own both Intel as a company and Intel services so it’s quite reasonable to conclude who’s behind this all. The usual stooges, right? That’s the obvious conclusion, for me at least. I don’t think they tampered with my laptop for realizing it, but for trying to spread this knowledge further. That’s what scares them the most, as bit by bit, society is able to look into the perverted actions of our rulers and see how corrupt PTB really are. Most of their actions are detrimental for our society. So naturally, they’re trying to make access to such information and further spreading it as hard as possible.

      I don’t want to burst your bubble, so don’t get upset, please. On the link you provided they’ve used Intel Core i7 processor to make a laptop. As I wrote in my post, Intel is using these backdoors on ALL Intel and AMD processors since approximately 2006. You can’t uninstall or remove it, it has it’s own co-processor on the board. Think about it – if Intel processor is being use, the MINIX and its co-processor are there unless Prism proves it otherwise. Have Prism proved they’ve removed Intel ME and stopped MINIX? Until they do, you can count them as compromised as any other manufacturer. The most important question for any hardware security company – are they aware of MINIX and Intel’s co-processor used to run it?

      Liked by 1 person

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