Researchers find new, ultra-low-level method of hacking CPUs - and there's no way to detect it
Researchers with the University of Massachusetts have devised a method of breaking a CPU’s internal cryptographic mechanisms in ways that are undetectable by current search methods, including close examination of the processor with high powered microscopes.
A bit of context is useful here. For years, we’ve known that a foundry responsible for manufacturing a processor could theoretically make changes to the architecture that would create backdoors, weaken security, or compromise the design. Such methods would be extremely difficult to integrate without changing the CPU’s data output, performance characteristics, or stability, but they could be done. The one foolproof method of checking a CPU to ensure it was built properly has been direct visual inspection. While difficult, time consuming, and ultimately destructive, engineers can visually inspect the entire surface of a core to ensure it matches the original design.
Now, that’s no longer sufficient. Even Intel’s hardware random generator can be compromised in a manner that’s neither visually detectable nor visible when the chip is tested at startup. How? By altering the way certain transistors are doped.
- Mon, 2013-12-09 01:33
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