Outsourcing may be cheaper than alternatives but it's not always a good idea. TweakTown reports a chip used by the US military contains a backdoor. The security threat was discovered by a Cambridge University researcher, the origin of the backdoor is unknown, the chip was manufactured in China but the site speculates it may have been introduced in the chip's design as a debugging tool.
Sergei Skorobogatov of Quo Vadis Labs at Cambridge University said:
Our aim was to perform advanced code breaking and to see if there were any unexpected features on the (US Military) chip. We scanned the silicon chip in an affordable time and found a previously unknown backdoor inserted by the manufacturer. This backdoor has a key, which we were able to extract. 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. This particular chip is prevalent in many systems from weapons, nuclear power plants to public transport. In other words, this backdoor access could be turned into an advanced Stuxnet weapon to attack potentially millions of systems. The scale and range of possible attacks has huge implications for National Security and public infrastructure.
Now, let's be fair: it isn't a sure thing that the backdoor was introduced by the Chinese. It's more probable that the backdoor was present in the original design as a debugging tool for the designer. This is a common practice and these backdoors are often present and not malicious. As such it is unlikely that it was put in by the Chinese.