University Researchers Invent Solution To Protect Chips Against Manufacturing Sabotage

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XaveT

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Jul 15, 2013
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If you add a second chip to check the first chip's calculations... isn't that second chip performing the work of the first one too? Or a second unit in the same chip? So why use the first chip/unit at all? Plus, who's to say that the second chip won't be modified if that's what they are worried about?

This seems like a monumental waste of research resources to me.
 

Jesse_20

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Dec 11, 2015
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It's more like a checksum device than another computational chip from what I gather. Each segment of the original chip could produce a binary signal on whether or not it completed it's task successfully or not, then the sum of those binary reports would produce a key which the second chip would verify as correct and not tampered with.
-HTH-
 

mrmez

Splendid
"Garg and his team created two modules, wherein one is embedded in the chip and proves that its calculations are correct, and an external module that checks whether the embedded module itself was compromised or not."

But who's gonna make the device to check the external module????
 

bit_user

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Read more carefully, and check the Source link (below the headline), when you have questions. The verification module is simpler than the actual chip under test, and you don't need many of them. So, you can fab it at a trusted foundry and use it to test your production wafers. They needn't be as fast, either, so you can fab them on an older, cheaper process.

Honestly, I think it's a good problem to solve. I think it's rare that this would really happen, but I expect sometimes it might.

If you want to understand how it actually works, here's the paper:

https://eprint.iacr.org/2015/1243.pdf
 
It has long been suspected certain state actors have been modifying the internal writable memory of certain chips, or rewriting the mask. Certain Chinese companies have been caught doing this to certain components used by defense contractors. http://www.businessinsider.com/counterfeit-parts-from-china-raise-grave-concerns-for-both-us-companies-and-national-security-2012-6

Rewriting the mask is a lot harder to do (and expensive) and this will be near impossible to check for changes. However it is possible to read the (e)PROM and assign a checksum like digital signature.

It's about well bloody time we assigned digital signatures to these chips.
 

Bobs Your Uncle

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@BIGPINKDRAGON286 - It's an extension of the model that AT&T employs when providing ISP & Cable TV services:

- Pay a lower "discounted" rate for service & AT&T gets to hoover-up all the personally identifying information about you that they care to, for targeted advertising & sale to 3rd parties.

- Pay a significantly higher rate (~2x) and your services are provided without intrusive (or perhaps only "minimal") data collection.

(At least that's what AT&T "states" wrt their data collection policies. And of course AT&T has just a sterling reputation for trustworthiness).

Marketing copy:
Choose between Cheap Chips from our Backdoors-R-Us Foundry Line OR for the finest in a Spy-Free computing experience, pick a Premium Priced Chip from our Honest Abe Silicon Selection.
 

grimfox

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These chips give you the option to send your expensive complex designs to a cheap manufacturer that may be influenced by a foreign actor and send the cheap verification chip to a trusted manufacturer. Overall this yields a net savings over sending the expensive design to a trusted manufacturer. At it's root it's a way to allow for safer outsourcing.
 
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