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Inside Intel’s Secret Warehouse in Costa Rica

Inside Intel’s Secret Warehouse in Costa Rica

Just a few years in the past, executives at

Intel Corp.

started to understand that they had an issue. The corporate was making dozens of recent merchandise annually, from chips to software program platforms, but it surely didn’t have a proper technique for cataloging and storing older expertise so engineers might check it for safety flaws.

Some units, reminiscent of Sandy Bridge microprocessors—launched in 2011 and discontinued in 2013—have been so scarce that Intel’s safety researchers resorted to combing the web for them.

“We needed to truly go on eBay and begin searching for these platforms,” mentioned

Mohsen Fazlian,

normal supervisor of Intel’s product assurance and safety unit.

Intel’s concern displays a wider concern: Legacy expertise can introduce cybersecurity weaknesses. Tech makers continually enhance their merchandise to benefit from velocity and energy will increase, however prospects don’t all the time improve on the similar tempo. This creates an extended tail of previous merchandise that stay in widespread use, weak to assaults.

Intel’s reply to this conundrum was to create a warehouse and laboratory in Costa Rica, the place the corporate already had a research-and-development lab, to retailer the breadth of its expertise and make the units accessible for distant testing. After planning started in mid-2018, the Lengthy-Time period Retention Lab was up and operating within the second half of 2019.

The warehouse shops round 3,000 items of {hardware} and software program, going again a couple of decade. Intel plans to broaden subsequent yr, practically doubling the area to 27,000 sq. toes from 14,000, permitting the ability to deal with 6,000 items of pc tools.

Intel engineers can request a particular machine in a configuration of their selection. It’s then assembled by a technician and accessible via cloud providers. The lab runs 24 hours a day, seven days every week, usually with about 25 engineers working any given shift.

An engineer on the Costa Rica facility assembles a tool requested by safety researchers for distant testing.



The lab offers Intel, which is predicated in Santa Clara, Calif., and has greater than 100,000 workers, a centralized, safe location the place safety checks could be run from anyplace on the earth. Entry to the constructing is strictly managed and authorised by senior managers, whereas surveillance cameras watch the tools always. Even its location is secret—Intel representatives declined to say the place precisely it’s.

The lab brings business worth to Intel, Mr. Fazlian mentioned, citing firm analysis that exhibits prospects usually tend to purchase expertise from producers that proactively check their merchandise.

Establishing the lab required getting hard-to-find tools to Costa Rica, hiring engineers and pc scientists who might work on the machines, and tapping accountants and managers to place processes in place to make it work, mentioned

Fawn Taylor,

senior director of company remediation packages for Intel’s product assurance and safety unit.

At occasions, contributions got here from engineers who had lengthy since moved on to different tasks and even left the corporate. They helped assemble technical documentation and mentioned what they knew about merchandise from years in the past, Ms. Taylor mentioned.

Marcel Cortes Beer, a supervisor on the lab, mentioned it will get about 1,000 requests a month to construct tools for distant safety checks, and 50 new units are available weekly.

Anders Fogh, a Germany-based senior principal engineer at Intel, mentioned the ability shortly turned an integral a part of his work, notably when making an attempt to duplicate safety flaws reported to Intel by outdoors researchers via its bug-bounty program. Examples of current vulnerabilities disclosed by Intel embrace flaws found in its Safestring code library that might enable hackers to achieve entry to delicate techniques, and errors in drivers that might let attackers give themselves credentials.

Intel Is increasing the ability to have the ability to warehouse 6,000 items of expertise.



“I could make an actual duplicate of the submitting researcher’s system. Similar CPU, similar working system model, microcode, BIOS,” Mr. Fogh mentioned. “All of which improve the possibility of reproducing the difficulty, which is usually the most effective start line.”

The lab gives remoted techniques for this work, which might in any other case show harmful for hard-to-find machines which might be nonetheless actively utilized in company environments. Testing safety vulnerabilities usually causes techniques to crash, which may end up in knowledge loss, Mr. Fogh mentioned.

The ability’s “big library of machines is de facto the go-to place for doing this sort of work,” he mentioned.

The lab has modified Intel’s product improvement. All new expertise is now constructed with the ability in thoughts, with technical documentation created to permit engineers to assist it for as much as 10 years, and models are despatched to the lab earlier than they’re launched, Mr. Fazlian mentioned.

“Hopefully, I’ll by no means discover myself looking eBay for Intel {hardware} once more,” he mentioned.

Write to James Rundle at

Extra From WSJ Professional Cybersecurity

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