Razer got its start making gaming-oriented peripherals like keyboards and mice, but it expanded into laptops a few years ago. The company’s Blade laptops still have that gamer aesthetic paired with powerful hardware. However, they also have a nasty security vulnerability that could let hackers implant malware on your system.
The vulnerability, known as CVE-2018-4251, is similar to one previously detected and patched in Apple laptops. It relates to the Intel Manufacturing Mode, a part of motherboard firmware for Intel-based systems. Apple spotted the screwup on its own and fixed it before anyone could take advantage, but the vulnerability has just been reported publicly after the discoverer was unable to get through to Razer. See below for an example of Razer just not understanding.
Manufacturing Mode is an undocumented configuration and testing suite that’s never supposed to be included on shipping firmware. It allows manufacturers to configure important platform settings like boot verification and write the settings to one-time programmable memory modules (FUSEs). The system parameters are initially stored in temporary memory for testing purposes and are then burned to FUSEs when closing Manufacturing Mode. If Manufacturing Mode is still active on a system, it could allow an attacker to create their own malicious system configuration options and lock them into the machine.
This vulnerability does not on its own allow hackers to take over a computer, but it offers a mighty tempting target if they manage to get in. They could change system settings to hide malware from detection, essentially telling the computer that the malware the hacker just installed is supposed to be there. Someone could even leverage the Intel Meltdown vulnerability to wreak havoc by downgrading to older BIOS versions that don’t protect against the CPU-level vulnerabilities.
Razer says several of its recent laptops have this vulnerability. The 2018 Razer Blade 15 (base model), the 2018 and 2019 Razer Blade Advanced, and the 2018 Razer Blade Stealth 13 all ship with the Intel Manufacturing Mode enabled. Razer has fixed this problem in manufacturing and will no longer ship laptops in this state. For everyone who already has one of the affected machines, Razer has an update that patches the firmware to close off Intel Manufacturing Mode. However, this may not work if someone has already used Manufacturing Mode to corrupt the system. Anyone who’s unsure about their system should contact Razer support.