A computer chip manufactured in China that is used in US military equipment contains a secret “backdoor” that could severely compromise security, a team of scientists from Cambridge University says.
In a recent report, Sergei Skorobogatov, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge’s computer laboratory, wrote that his team had developed silicon chip scanning technology that allowed them to investigate claims by various intelligence services worldwide that silicon chips could be infected by malware, such as Stuxnet, that can allow a third party to gain access to or transmit confidential data.
Unlike software, no means currently exist to protect hardware against viruses or Trojan horses, a critical vulnerability for defense systems that are hardware-reliant.
For its research, Skorobogatov’s team selected a chip that was manufactured in China and is used by the US military. The chip, which is prevalent in many systems used in weapons, nuclear power plants and public transport, was considered highly secure and used sophisticated encryption standards.
After performing advanced code breaking, the team found a backdoor they say had been inserted by the manufacturer.
“This backdoor has a key, which we were able to extract,” Skorobogatov wrote on his Web site, discussing what he referred to as hardware assurance. “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.”
The backdoor access could be turned into an advanced Stuxnet weapon to attack potentially millions of systems, he wrote, adding that the scale and range of the attacks that could be launched using it had huge implications for national security and public infrastructure.
The Cambridge team did not specify the Chinese manufacturer, nor did it mention whether this was an isolated case or signs of a wider trend, according to the online-based The Next Web.
Reports last year claimed that the US Navy had purchased 59,000 microchips in 2010 for use in missiles and transponders that turned out to be counterfeits from China. According to Wired magazine, the fake chips also contained “backdoors” that could have allowed a third party to remotely disable them at any time, severely compromising homing systems and friend-or-foe signals used by aircraft.
The discovery prompted the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency to seek ways to scan hardware — including computer chips — for the presence of malware installed during the production process.
CAUTION: Taiwanese should be alert, even if they have just liked or shared posts that would breach Beijing’s national security legislation for Hong Kong, the council said Due to the newly implemented Hong Kong national security legislation, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has drawn up a list of what it described as “high-risk groups,” cautioning them not to travel to Hong Kong. People who support independence for Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang; those who are critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Hong Kong government and the “one country, two systems” concept; and those who donated to or voiced support for the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill movement are urged to refrain from visiting Hong Kong, the council said on its Web site. It released two posts on
NEW HONG KONG LAW: A visit to Beijing-friendly nations or those with weak judicial systems could leave people at risk of deportation to China, a former MAC official said Beijing could request countries with which it has extradition agreements to deport Taiwanese to China to face criminal charges following the implementation of national security legislation for Hong Kong, a former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) official warned yesterday. Some developing countries, and those close to China because of the Belt and Road Initiative, are likely to accommodate Beijing’s requests to extradite Taiwanese to China, said former deputy MAC minister Chen Ming-chi (陳明祺), who served from July 2, 2018, until May 20, and then returned to his former post as an assistant professor of sociology at National Tsing Hua University. While Taiwanese
IN THE PIPELINE: The Ministry of National Defense said the sale, expected to take effect in one month, would be the seventh arms sale under the Trump administration The government yesterday thanked the US for approving the possible sale of a US$620 million missile repair and recertification package to Taiwan. The US Department of State has approved the sale of a package to recertify Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington for an estimated US$620 million, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a news release on Thursday. The agency has delivered the required certification to the US Congress, notifying it of the possible sale, it added. The TECRO had requested to buy an upgrade package that would support an operational
INJURED: Several KMT lawmakers fought their way through DPP members into the legislative chamber, while others lay on a driveway to block Chen Chu Scuffles broke out at the Legislative Yuan yesterday as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers again occupied the legislative chamber, stymieing a report by Control Yuan presidential nominee Chen Chu (陳菊) and a question-and-answer session. The KMT lawmakers showed up at the back door of the chamber at about 5am and tried to enter, but were stopped by several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers who were guarding the door. Scuffles broke out as the KMT lawmakers tried to force their way through the door, injuring legislators on both sides. KMT Legislator Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) tackled DPP Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), while DPP Legislator Wu