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[INQ] CPU Hacking

post #1 of 32
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http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquir...rocessors-step

Quote:
HACKING SOFTWARE TO gain access to someone else’s computer could soon become “old schoolâ€, according to boffins at the University of Illinois, who say that the next level for hackers is hacking the microprocessor itself.

New research has shown that it is in fact possible to alter chips in such a way as to leave computers helpless to back-door attacks, which would be almost impossible to detect.

To prove their point, researchers set up a demo of such an attack yesterday, in San Francisco, at a security conference called the Usenix Workshop on Large-Scale Exploits and Emergent Threats. The alarming demo showed how a processor running a Linux operating system was left totally vulnerable after a malicious firmware laden chip was given instructions to allow an attacker to log on to the computer without any trouble at all.

Head boffin, Samuel King, who is also an assistant professor in the university of Illinois’s computer science department, reckoned that "This is like the ultimate back door."

He explained that hacking the chip was actually the easy part, requiring changes to only very few of the processor’s circuits. For the demo, King said that his team had tampered with only 1,341 of the chip’s one million logic gates, and that in order to hack the system, all that needed to be done was to send the processor a specially crafted network packet, telling it to let loose its evil load of malicious firmware. "From the software's perspective, the packet gets dropped ... and yet I have full and complete access to this underlying system that I just compromised," said King.

The hard part for any potential pioneering microprocessor hacker, would be the actual logistics of how to get an infected CPU into someone’s computer in the first place. Unlike hacking software, hacking hardware actually requires physical action. King admits that its not the most plausible attack strategy, but then went on to give his tips (or views, if you’re not a hacker) about how it could be done. King reckons that a "mole" developer (no, not a vole developer, a mole) could stick the code into the chip whilst working on it’s design, or an underpaid computer assembly lines-man could bung in the infected chips for a few pieces of silver.

Needless to say, this will just hype up the paranoia at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) , who already issued a warning back in 2005 about how offshore integrated circuit manufacturing could give rise to dangerous security breaches. After all, if you let pesky foreigners handle your chips, who knows what they might do to them. µ
Scary since it is quite easy for a factory worker to help out or screw up. (i.e. Best Buy digital frames with viruses).
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post #2 of 32
I was curious up to the part about actually requiring physical sabotage on the system, if you're allowed access to the actual hardware then you would just take the whole thing.
post #3 of 32
Its does seem pretty far-fetched that this'll happen on a general consumer level...
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post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FZ0 View Post
I was curious up to the part about actually requiring physical sabotage on the system, if you're allowed access to the actual hardware then you would just take the whole thing.
Why would you take the whole thing when the inputted data is vastly more valuable? Put a few hacked CPUs in a bank server.

Data >> Hardware.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenFaux View Post
Its does seem pretty far-fetched that this'll happen on a general consumer level...
Best Buy and McDonalds have sold products with viruses pre-installed... for FREE! It doesn't sound that far fetched to me.
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post #5 of 32
well, duckie has it right with the digital frame analogy. All it would take is one compromised fab, or not even that, just a compromise in the distribution channel, send out all these altered chips. then just like a botnet all these pc's will be "infected", all the cracker (cause this is not hacker activity) would have to do then is start sending out the signal to as many pc's as he can, then viola, the compromised machines would start reveiling themselves and thier data.
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post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenFaux View Post
Its does seem pretty far-fetched that this'll happen on a general consumer level...
Ya no kidding lol. I guess if all your companies computers disappear for a few days, then magically reappear, maybe then you should worry that your cpu is hacked.
    
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post #7 of 32
type in "cell processors" into google and this would be really scary if that happened
post #8 of 32
I don't think sabotaging transistors qualifies as hacking.

If I take a sledgehammer to someone's server to bring it down I doubt anyone would call that hacking.
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post #9 of 32
I think the scarier idea is for China to start manufacturing CPUs and somehow substituting them as genuine AMD or Intel Chips and getting them into government computers.
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post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by dharmaBum View Post
I don't think sabotaging transistors qualifies as hacking.

If I take a sledgehammer to someone's server to bring it down I doubt anyone would call that hacking.
The difference is that you won't be able to do anything with the computer you just took a sledgehammer to. But with this, completely undetected.
    
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