Latest Ubuntu Alpha Damaging Intel NICs

It appears that a bug in a network driver used in the kernel of the latest alpha release of the popular Ubuntu Linux distro is damaging Intel network controllers, sometimes irreparably.

In bug #263555 on the website titled, "[intrepid] 2.6.27 e1000e driver places Intel ICH8 and ICH9 gigE chipsets at risk", it is noted that the NVRAM on Intel 82566 and 82567 based LAN controllers is being corrupted, but the bug seems to have affected only notebook users at this point...

"In some circumstances it appears possible for the 2.6.27-rc kernels to corrupt the NVRAM used by some Intel network parts to store data such as MAC addresses.

This is limited to the new e1000e driver, and reports have only appeared from users of "82566 and 82567 based LAN parts (ich8 and ich9)" (to quote Intel). The reports seem to be isolated to laptops, but it is not clear if this is because desktop/server parts are not vulnerable, or if use cases simply increase the chances of laptop users being hit.

Once this corruption has occurred, recovery may be possible via a BIOS update, but may well require replacement of the hardware. Use of Intel's IABUTIL.EXE is strongly discouraged, as it will worsen the problem to the point where the network part will no longer appear on the PCI bus."

A myriad of users / testers have commented on the bug and there is a patch available for another similar networking bug, that unfortunately is not 100% effective. There are also instructions in the comments that explain how to save a copy of the data stored in the NIC's eeprom, should user's currently unaffected by the bug want to store a backup in the event the bug pops up at a later point.

A common thread among users is that the distro should be pulled down until the bug is fixed. Although this is an alpha release and bugs are expected, testing an alpha release shouldn't result in a damaged hardware. What say you?
Tags:  Intel, Ubuntu, Nic, test, Alpha, Mag, Aging, ICS, AG, AMA, BU, AM
bob_on_the_cob 6 years ago

Oh thats ugly! I'll be waiting for the stable verson before I upgrade to 8.10

Super Dave 6 years ago

Wow, I had no idea that a driver could actually damage hardware.

marco c 6 years ago

Here's that they think may be going on, "the eeprom is not MMIO mapped, the registers for accessing it are. I'm still not clear if a random write to a memory location could corrupt things, we'll be looking at that today."

Panda 6 years ago

I say, why is this announced all over the internet as if it only affects ubuntu? It affects all Linux distributions using the kernel 2.6.27-rc1 (up until 2.6.27-rc4).

Super Dave 6 years ago

Welcome to HotHardware, Panda!

3vi1 6 years ago

If you can fix it by rewriting the eeprom (insinuated by the backup procedure), it's not "damaging hardware".

marco c 6 years ago

Sure it is. What if you don't have a backup of the eeprom? Is corrupted data, not damaged data? And if the corrupted data causes a harware malfunction, isn't that hardware damaged?

3vi1 6 years ago

>> What if you don't have a backup of the eeprom?

Find someone who does. I don't think Intel's going to sue you for copyright infringement on something that won't work without their hardware.  Especially since, owning the hardware, you are already licenced for the eeprom software.

I wouldn't even be surprised if Intel doesn't supply a bootable disk that fixes them, before this is all over - just to avoid the negative impression towards their easily-corruptable NICs.

>> And if the corrupted data causes a harware malfunction, isn't that hardware damaged?

Respectfully speaking:  By that logic, If I write a program the overwrites your boot sector - I damaged your computer's hardware.

The NICs might be semi-bricked, but they're not bricked. If you can fix it with a software reload, then obviously the hardware is not damaged.

I remember the old days, when you could really damage hard drives by programming them to beat their heads against physical stops, or set a monitor to a refresh rate that burned it out - those were hardware damage.

I'm surprised there aren't more viruses that take advantage of Intel's eeproms, if they're so easy to re-write.  That would make for a hell of a virus - one that hides itself in your NIC eeprom and re-installs after you reformat.  Kind of like CIH done right.  I have to go now, to start work on a completely unrelated project.  :)

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