NSA backdoor in Intel and AMD CPUs?

Posted on Wednesday, Jul 31 2013 @ 12:07 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Silicon Valley technology expert Steve Blank claims there's a good chance that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has embedded backdoors inside chips from Intel and AMD, giving them easy access to remotely control PCs. Blank has no evidence for his high-impact claims, but he argues that hacking equipment would be preferable for the NSA, rather than cracking codes. He points out that since the mid-1990s, microprocessors can be reprogrammed via microcode updates, an innovation that prevents costly recalls. Processors from Intel and AMD can be updated via Windows Update, and Blank suspects this may be an ideal attack vector. Full details at Financial Review.
He noted that while the NSA had been “exceptionally thorough nailing down every conceivable way to tap into communications”, two conspicuous absences from the raft of high-profile technology firms named in the PRISM leaks were Intel and AMD.

“Perhaps they are the only good guys,” he said.

“Or perhaps the NSA – legally compelling the chip vendors and/or Microsoft, or working outside of them – have compromised the microcode updates that affect most computers.”

Mr Blank said that if an intelligence agency was able to legally acquire or independently compromise the “signing keys” used to secure microcode updates, they could also target specific computers rather than the mass market.

“They could then install a backdoor on your computer disguised as a Windows security update – and you would think everything was great,” he said.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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