On the evening of one of United States’s most widely celebrated holidays – Memorial Day, comes some disheartening yet not-so surprising news.
Cambridge University researchers have recently discovered that a microprocessor that is widely used by the US Military, contains a “backdoor” that would allow reprogramming or shutdown of the processor. The microprocessor is manufactured in China.
The use of this backdoor could allow for IP theft, fraud or reverse-engineering of the devices and firmware that utilize it. It’s reported that one of the main uses of this microprocessor is in missile defense and and missile guidance systems, though that hasn’t yet been confirmed.
The Cambridge researchers stumbled upon this discovery while testing a new extraction technique of encryption keys from microprocessors, such as these. The “bug” or backdoor was found in the processor itself and not in the firmware’s code. Along with being used in military hardware, the microprocessor is also found in industrial applications as well.
This obviously is a huge issue. Not only does this lead to question the integrity and ethics of foreign corporations, but it it makes those of us wonder just how deeply rooted is the Chinese government into silicon and semiconductor manufactures that sell to US government and US businesses.
Clearly, we have a national security issue here. This is the first time though that China has been suspected of malicious tampering with hardware they manufacture for the US and others. In 2008, a Powerpoint presentation put together by the FBI detailed another such threat – with Cisco routers and switches. The Powerpoint presentation can be directly downloaded here.
So, what can be done about this? The obvious answer, though probably the most difficult to achieve, would be to halt the purchase of silicon and semiconductor technologies from foreign places like China and bring those manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Realistically though, this will likely never happen seeing as we are so deeply in debt to China, and China needs us financially (at least for now). With the ever-emerging cyber threats originating from China’s IP block ranges and more and more corporations in the United States attributing APT’s (Advanced Persistent Threats) to a Chinese origin, it would seem some course of action is begging to be taken. It’s the opinion of this author that we cut through the political and financial crap and get a critical issue, such as this, resolved.
This is a matter of National Security. It should be treated as such. This isn’t one of those issues that swings to the left or to the right. A discovery like this has the potential to affect every American in a negative way if we don’t take the appropriate course of action in dealing with hostile foreign governments and their influence in technology manufacturers.
The original new article can be found here.