Skip to Content
Uncategorized

US Military Chips "Compromised"

As military hardware uses more off the shelf components, it has become vulnerable to common exploits.

A researcher in Cambridge has issued a report claiming that a common sort of reprogrammable microchip (an FPGA, for you gearheads) contains a deliberately-obscured backdoor that would allow anyone with knowledge of it to clone or reprogram the chip. These chips are really common, and show up in everything from drones to nuclear power plants.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards show off a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel drone

Robert David Graham of “cyber security consulting company” Errata says that these claims are overblown. It’s not that these chips don’t contain this vulnerability, he elaborates, it’s just that nearly all FPGA chips have this vulnerability.

Evan Rodgers at The Verge breaks it down:

Errata Security [argues] that these backdoors are more commonly known as debugging interfaces. Manufacturers often just physically disconnect these debugging avenues rather than design them out of chips after development as a cost saving measure. This means that these interfaces could be exploited by physically reconnecting the pins, which is a technique commonly used to hack consumer electronics. For example, hackers on the XDA-Developers forums modified the original Galaxy S and its variants to expose JTAG flashing mechanisms. Even a specific generation of the Xbox 360 was exploited this way.

So, no big deal, right? Except that the larger issue is that as military hardware incorporates more off the shelf parts, in theory, it becomes easier to hack. That’s one reason why it’s such a big deal that Iran recently got hold of an intact US drone, which they claim to be copying as well as sharing with China.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.