Some Intel mobile chips dispense ID numbers

Some mobile chips shipped by Intel in January have a bug that lets servers obtain an identification number from them, a company spokesman said today.

The number that the chips provide to the servers, however, is not a serial number, like the one that Intel is burning into its new Pentium III processors. Intel doesn't even know if the number that the mobile chips issue is unique, said Howard High, an Intel spokesman based in the company's headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

"The chip returns a value. But the exact nature of the value is not one we can guarantee as unique," High said.

This "value" is generated by some circuitry that is a prototype to the one present in the Pentium III chips, he said. This prototype circuitry should have been removed from these mobile chips before shipping, High added.

In any case, Intel recognises this as a bug and today began shipping a patch to PC manufacturers to fix the flaw at the BIOS (basic input/output system) level by rewriting part of the BIOS code, he said. PC manufacturers can distribute the patch by physically sending it to users, by reprogramming the BIOS code in the users' machines via a phone line, or by placing the patch on their Web sites for downloading, High said.

The flaw is present in some of the mobile Pentium II processors with Level 2 cache and some of the mobile Celeron processors that Intel began shipping January 25. Intel estimates that about half of the Pentium II chips and half of the Celeron chips that began shipping that day have this flaw, High said.

The flawed chips are those that come in the "mobile module package," which is one of three types of packaging Intel offers, a distinction not all users may be aware of, High said. Users should contact the manufacturer of their notebook PCs to find out if their machines have one of the affected chips, he added.

Intel is also working with Microsoft to include with the next Windows update a patch to fix the flaw at the operating system level, he said. Microsoft releases these updates about every four weeks, High said.

Intel has been involved in a loud controversy since it announced several weeks ago that its new Pentium III processors would have a unique serial number, which Intel said will help identify parties in a transaction and make electronic commerce more secure. Groups that advocate consumer privacy have said that the feature could compromise the privacy of users.

To address the issue, Intel has offered a software patch that can be downloaded from the Internet and used to disable the security number. The company has also provided a mechanism in the BIOS that can be used to disable the number, although this requires a bit more technical expertise to use, and Intel said it can't force PC makers to install it.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?