The most widely used OS isn’t one you are familiar with – in fact you might not know you’re running it. While most people are familiar with Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, Ubuntu – they might still be a bit shy from claiming the throne.
A report from Network World noted that the most popular OS is in fact called MINIX. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know you were running it alongside your usual OS. For anyone with a modern Intel CPU releases in the last few years, they would have Intel’s Management Engine built-in. What Intel is running is on MINIX.
According to Network World, MINIX is a “Unix-like OS originally developed by Andrew Tanenbaum as an educational tool [for demonstrating] operating system programming.”
What is concerning, is that users have no access to MINIX, while MINIX has control over all of the computer’s system. This presents as a significant security risk. Below is a better explanation from Network World.
“MINIX is running on “Ring -3” (that’s “negative 3”) on its own CPU. A CPU that you, the user/owner of the machine, have no access to. The lowest “Ring” you have any real access to is “Ring 0,” which is where the kernel of your OS (the one that you actually chose to use, such as Linux) resides. Most user applications take place in “Ring 3” (without the negative).”
It was reported that Google is actually actively trying to remove Intel’s Management Engine (MINIX) from their internal servers. In their report, the noted that in Ring -3, your CPU contains a full networking stack, file systems, many drivers (including USB, networking, etc.) as well as a web server.
Unknowingly, users have been running an OS, that could present itself as a significant security risk. While we really hope things are secure, it still makes us a bit nervous regarding privacy issues.
Source: Network World