"Unhackable" Infineon chip physically cracked

A secure chip used for preserving secrets on PCs and protecting Microsoft technology has been physically compromised

Former US military security specialist Christopher Tarnovsky found a weakness in Infineon's SLE66 CL PE and presented the results of his hack at the Black Hat 2010 computer security conference. The Infineon chip is used in PCs, satellite TV hardware, and gaming consoles to protect secure data.

Tarnovsky, who works for security firm Flylogic, said that cracking the Infineon chip, which has a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) designation, was a long processes involving an electronic microscope (retails for around $70,000). The attack on the chip took six months to plan and execute, and it included dissolving the outer part of the chip with acid and using tiny needles to eavesdrop on the chip's programming instructions.

Despite physically accessing the chip, Tarnovsky still had to navigate the chip's software defenses. According to the AP, Tarnovsky remarked that "This chip is mean, man--it's like a ticking time bomb if you don't do something right."

Does this mean that Infineon's flagship secure chip has been entirely compromised? Infineon was aware that a physical hack was possible, but that an attack of this variety would require resources beyond that of the typical cracker. Joerg Borchert, a VP of security at Infineon, told the AP that, as this attack requires physical access to the chip, a smart hacker, and expensive equipment, "the risk is manageable, and you are just attacking one computer."

Will we start seeing peripherals that for the Xbox that take advantage of this hack? Maybe, but don't count on it unless you know hackers who are willing to shell out almost $100,000 for the electron microscope and other equipment necessary for compromising the Infineon chip.

Follow GeekTech on Twitter or Facebook.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags pc componentssecurity

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Alessondra Springmann

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?