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Communications of the ACM


Are Computer Chips the New Security Threat?

Are Computer Chips the New Security Threat? illustrative photo

An employee checking components at Infineon Technologies AG microchip and sensor manufacturing facility in Germany.

Credit: Krisztian Bocsi / Bloomberg

Throughout the history of computing, a common assumption has always been that microchips are generally secure; while software may be infected with malware or nefarious backdoors, hardware could be mostly trusted. As Milos Prvulovic, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Computer Science puts it: "Most people, even among security researchers, have not questioned the integrity of hardware. We have all assumed that the hardware we use works exactly as specified and that it reads all instructions correctly."

Although researchers and security experts have been concerned about the possibility of a Trojan Horse or other type of hardware attack, the danger has remained in the theoretical realm.


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