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Watch out! KILLER HP firmware update bricks ProLiant server mobos

If you're using a Broadcom NIC, you need to read this

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

HP has warned customers that one of its firmware updates can accidentally brick the network hardware in 100 ProLiant Server models.

The Service Pack for ProLiant 2014.02.0 can potentially murder HP Broadcom-based network adapters in G2 to G7-series machines. A server relying on a dead NIC is not much use at all – and may well require a motherboard swap to fix if the slain silicon is a built-in component. The affected adapters range from PCIe cards to integrated controllers.

The online support centre admitted that applying the firmware upgrade on some unlucky systems could have a disastrous effect.

"On certain HP ProLiant servers, certain HP Broadcom-Based Network adapters listed in the scope may become non-functional when they are updated with the Comprehensive Configuration Management firmware Version 7.8.21 using firmware smart component, HP Smart Update Manager or the HP Service Pack for ProLiant 2014.2.0," the firm stated.

It added that a knackered network adapter may require a "hardware replacement to recover".

Sysadmins who download and install the patch on a vulnerable system will shortly discover that the server cannot detect its network adapter, which will be a pain to fix – especially when trying to subsequently load in replacement firmware.

For some, the warning HP tacked onto the service pack's web page came too late in the day: the firmware was released on 18 April, giving unsuspecting IT departments plenty of time to brick their electronics.

Richard J Brain, technical director at security biz ProCheckup, told El Chan, that he was advised by HP to swap out a bug-hit motherboard – the bricked network adapter is embedded on it – but this was not a cheap nor a quick solution.

"To replace a server motherboard takes the best part of half a day," he said, pointing out the fan, the fan tray, the drive and drive bay, power controller, PCIe cards, processors, and memory, and so on must be removed.

An HP spokeswoman told us that upon becoming aware of the issue, "HP removed the components causing the failure", but didn't give any technical details of the cock-up.

She said customers that completed the firmware update on the at-risk systems should contact the tech titan for "remediation" as "in this case the components causing the failure many need to be removed".

"HP expects that due to the nature of the issue, some customers could experience this problem," she said, adding that it is "confident" the "response team handles problems quickly and efficiently".

The firm said it is still trying to work out how many customers are at risk. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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