Intel is collecting legacy hardware for security research

Technology

Intel for the past few years has been collecting and cataloging its legacy hardware at a warehouse in Costa Rica, but not for a museum or other historical purpose. To ensure that customers across generations of hardware are protected against newly discovered attacks, Intel needs examples of its older hardware on hand to test with. As it turns out, this was a bit of a challenge for a while consider the company didn’t have a formal method of cataloging and storing legacy hardware until recently.

The chipmaker churns out lots of new and updated hardware each year, but most consumers don’t upgrade to the latest and greatest with each subsequent release. This creates a trail of legacy products that remain in active use in the wild, all of which are vulnerable to various security weaknesses.

Mohsen Fazlian, general manager of Intel’s product assurance and security unit, told The Wall Street Journal that some pieces of hardware were so scare within Intel’s walls that they had to turn to eBay to secure used examples.

Intel’s second-gen Core processor family, codename Sandy Bridge, was cited by name. The microarchitecture launched in early 2011 before being discontinued in the latter half of 2013.

Intel’s Long-Term Retention Lab opened in the second half of 2019, playing host to some 3,000 pieces of legacy hardware and software dating back roughly a decade. At any given time, roughly 25 employees are on hand at the facility, ready to assemble a machine to meet an Intel engineer’s request and make it accessible via the cloud for remote testing.

A lab manager told The Journal that they get around 1,000 requests to build systems per month, and receive around 50 new pieces of hardware each week. Next year, Intel plans to double the warehouse space to house roughly 6,000 parts.

Intel could learn a thing or two from Nintendo. Back in 2016, the Japanese gaming giant revealed it has mint condition hardware stored at its headquarters that is decades old at this point.