Researchers Found Backdoor in FPGA Chip Used By US Military

Researchers Found Backdoor in FPGA Chip Used By US Military

A researchers team from Cambridge University has figure out that a Chinese-manufactured chip used by US armed forces contains a secret access point that could leave it vulnerable to third party tampering. But the backdoor in the FPGA chip is real, probably part of the manufacturer's debugging hardware, and is unlikely to be easily disabled. The researchers tested an unspecified US military chip — used in weapons, nuclear power plants to public transport – and found that a previously unknown ‘backdoor’ access point had been added, making systems and hardware open to attack, the team says. According to Sergei Skorobogatov, researcher of Cambridge University - "We scanned the silicon chip in an affordable time and found a previously unknown backdoor inserted by the manufacturer. This backdoor has a key, which we were able to extract. If you use this key you can disable the chip or reprogram it at will, even if locked by the user with their own key. This particular chip is prevalent in many systems from weapons, nuclear power plants to public transport. In other words, this backdoor access could be turned into an advanced Stuxnet weapon to attack potentially millions of systems. The scale and range of possible attacks has huge implications for National Security and public infrastructure."
The news comes at a time when Chinese cyber-spying threats are a particular concern. Chinese telecom manufacturers ZTE and Huawei are already under investigation from the US government, which is assessing whether the duo’s telecom businesses pose a national security threat. The Cambridge researchers did not name the company that developed the chip tested, nor did they provide more specific details of its usage. The draft of the associated paper gave more details though. Firstly, the chip in question was a Actel/Microsemi ProASIC3 chip, a "military grade" FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) which has a 128-bit AES encryption key to protect its contents and configuration, the intellectual property (IP) of the chip programmer. The chip is not an "American military chip" but an off-the-shelf component used in a wide variety of applications, including US military applications, and its encryption capabilities are specifically designed to only protect the IP.

-Source (The Next Web & The-H)


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