What the AMD IP theft is about: no crown jewels stolen?

Posted on Friday, March 27 2020 @ 9:48 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
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Yesterday, one of the weirder news items was the story that AMD was the victim of IP theft. Several months ago, a hacker managed to obtain source code related to the company's Navi 10, Navi 21 and Arden GPUs. Now there's a bit more information about what the hack is about. WCCF Tech talked to various individuals who saw the source code and who have experience with Verilog, the software that the files were written in.

The site claims the leaked source code is largely useless as it can't be used to reverse engineer anything, nor can it be easily used to bypass security features of AMD's RDNA GPUs. The code is also built on a proprietary schematic that is only compatible with AMD's internal design language, making it largely useless for a third party. No crown jewels were stolen but there is a slim possibility that the leak could result in the discovery of a security vulnerability in AMD's GPUs.

WCCF Tech says the GPU IP leak is about the following items:
  • Partial Verilog files that are typically used in the construction of processors.

  • The Verilog files in question represent a single and isolated function(s) on the GPU - NOT the whole/actual GPU blueprint. This I believe is the most important takeaway and context for the IP theft. This particular function(s) is not very exciting and not part of AMD's core IP.

  • Based on the leaker's screenshots, the files they have not yet leaked are more of the same and also nowhere close to being a complete "source code". In other words, the total stolen IP represents a very small fraction of the "source code" needed to build and design a GPU.

  • These Verilog files are built on a proprietary schematic that is only compatible with AMD's internal design language (in other words, these are going to be close to useless to a third party).
  • There are also doubts about how these files were obtained, as it's very unlikely that a hacker would accidentally stumble upon this type of IP. WCCF Tech heard from its sources that this sort of data is usually protected behind a chain of trust and other standard operating procedures (SOP). Perhaps the criminal investigation will result in a juicy story.

    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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