ALERT! Centrino users must update or get owned!

ALL PCs with the Centrino logo or any computer using an Intel Wireless Ethernet adapter must update their PROSet software and drivers found here or your computer can be remotely hijacked. An update was released earlier this month but that version was found to leak memory and cause PC slowdown. It is absolutely critical for IT departments and individual users to update their PROSet software and drivers. Get tips and links for the update here!

ALL PCs with the Centrino logo or any computer using an Intel Wireless Ethernet adapter must update their PROSet software and drivers found here or your computer can be remotely hijacked.  An update was released earlier this month but that version was found to leak memory and cause PC slowdown.  It is absolutely critical for IT departments and individual users to update their PROSet software and drivers.

Unfortunately, there isn't any autoupdate mechanism for the Intel PROSet software and drivers.  Microsoft Windows Update includes an optional driver update section for WDM certified drivers, but something like the Intel PROSet software isn't ever included in Windows Update and you'll need to download the 51 MB update manually and install it manually on every single machine in your organization.  Microsoft does not include driver or third party software updates in their critical update mechanism, but that may not be a bad idea if Microsoft would provide a standardized mechanism to deliver these critical updates.  This should be done in conjunction with all of the third party hardware and software vendors since most major Linux distributions already do.

While Intel is ultimately the vendor responsible for their flaw, getting every hardware and software vendor to create their own update mechanism is redundant and difficult.  A consolidated mechanism would use fewer system resources, operate faster, and be easier to use.  We haven't asked every ISV to write their own printer or graphics driver since the days of MS-DOS, perhaps it's time we started treating update mechanisms the same way.  Until such time, I'm afraid you're all stuck with another manual clean up job that you didn't want or planed for.

Here are some tips for installing the Intel PROSet drivers.  If your company already uses a standardized wireless connection manager like the one built in to Windows XP SP2, Funk Software's Odyssey client, or Meetinghouse Data Communications (recently acquired by Cisco), make sure you choose a "driver only" install.  DO NOT install the PROSet driver software, it seems a bit bloated sometimes and it will slow the "Network Connections" control panel down in my experience.  If you're an individual user and you have Windows XP SP2 plus the Microsoft WPA2 patch (get this if you haven't already done so), you should also do a "driver only" install and not the full "driver plus software" install.  If you are running an older OS like Windows 2000, you'll want to install everything since it gives you full WPA2 capability on Windows 2000 which you can't get natively from the OS.

Despite these problems and despite the fact that I've never cared for Intel's Centrino marketing (David Berlind likes the marketing even less), I should mention that Intel has an excellent track record on their wireless products and they've even added WPA2 and AES support to their original 802.11b wireless adapter used in the original Centrino product.  A lot of hardware vendors leave relatively new products hanging and never bothered to add WPA let alone WPA2 support.

Intel also provides the cheapest way to upgrade your existing laptop to full native 802.11 a/b/g capabilities with the Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG miniPCI adapter at $30 which is almost half the price of other solutions.  At $30, this is even cheaper than what a lot of PC vendors are offering as an upgrade price when you're shopping for a new laptop.  802.11a support is still the best way to avoid the spectrum hogs now that the 802.11n standard is getting ready to completely jam the 2.4 GHz spectrum.  The upside to this miniPCI adapter is that it goes inside your laptop and doesn't protrude out of your Cardbus slot.  The down side to this is that you will need to open up the laptop to do the upgrade.  Note that for newer laptops have PCI-Express mini slots instead of miniPCI slots and that would require something like the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 which costs around $30.

One of Intel's competitors in the wireless chipset market is Atheros.  Atheros with the open source MADWiFi drivers on Linux is the security auditor or hacker's wireless network card of choice.  It's a favorite on Linux because of its RAW packet injection capability which allows security auditors to probe for weaknesses on a wireless network or it lets hackers exploit the very weakness on the Intel PROSet driver and software we're talking about here.  The only place I've seen these miniPCI adapters is on eBay for $55.  A cardbus version like the Netgear WAG511 is also popular for $62.  I'm not mentioning this for the hacker's benefit because I'm not telling them anything new.  This is to let people know that these threats on wireless device drivers are real so upgrade your Centrino laptops today!

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