Monday, September 16, 2013

"Secure" Integrated Circuit Chip Salami'ed into Spilling Secrets

A technique has been developed to bypass elaborate physical protections and siphon data off the most secure chips potentially including those used to protect military secrets.

The proof-of-concept technique demonstrated by researchers at Berlin's Technical University and security consultancy IOActive was successfully applied to a low-security Atmel chip commonly used in TiVo video recording devices. But the research team found that their complex and expensive attack could be applied to successfully pry data from highly-secure chips.

The attack used a polishing machine to mill down the silicon on the target chip until it was 30 micrometers thin.

The chip was then placed under a laser microscope fitted with an infrared camera to observe heat emanating from where encryption algorithms were running.

A focused ion-beam was then shot at the chip which dug a series of two micrometer -deep trenches in which wiretap probes were inserted.

Together, the elaborate techniques if bolstered by the use of more expensive equipment not available to the researchers could potentially bypass the most advanced chip security mechanisms. (more)