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Backdoor Found in China-Made US Military Chip

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | more than 2 years ago

China 5

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Information Age reports that the Cambridge University researchers have discovered that a microprocessor used by the US military but made in China contains secret remote access capability, a secret "backdoor" that means it can be shut off or reprogrammed without the user knowing. The "bug" is in the actual chip itself, rather than the firmware installed on the devices that use it. This means there is no way to fix it than to replace the chip altogether. "The discovery of a backdoor in a military grade chip raises some serious questions about hardware assurance in the semiconductor industry," writes Cambridge University researcher Sergei Skorobogatov. "It also raises some searching questions about the integrity of manufacturers making claims about [the] security of their products without independent testing." The unnamed chip, which the researchers claim is widely used in military and industrial applications, is "wide open to intellectual property theft, fraud and reverse engineering of the design to allow the introduction of a backdoor or Trojan", Does this mean that the Chinese have control of our military information infrastructure asks Rupert Goodwins? "No: it means that one particular chip has an undocumented feature. An unfortunate feature, to be sure, to find in a secure system — but secret ways in have been built into security systems for as long as such systems have existed.""

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5 comments

Australia Government dismisses Chinese supplier (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40134977)

.. and people wondered why the Australian Government rejected the major Chinese supplier for hardware that will drive the NBN project.

Big question: who put it in? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40135197)

The Chinese government is the obvious and most likely culprit. But since the chip has military and industrial uses, an arm of the US or some other government (putting the backdoor in during design rather than manufacture) is a possibility. Or it could have been put in by the original designer for debugging purposes.

Actual paper (1)

ice3 (1305003) | more than 2 years ago | (#40135575)

Hate those articles with things like "undisclosed" chip.

The actual paper is located here:
https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~sps32/sec_news.html [cam.ac.uk] enjoy

The chip in question is Actel/Microsemi ProASIC3 FGPA

Re:Actual paper (1)

ice3 (1305003) | more than 2 years ago | (#40135587)

ah... I really need to RTFA once in a while :)) Just located the same link in the article

How is it remote (1)

fireman sam (662213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139101)

If you need the chip to program it? It isn't as though it has a WIMAX antenna sticking out of it.

Militant 1: "Oh crap, the US have just fired a missile at us."
Militant 2: "It's OK, when it gets here we can reprogram it."

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