Thursday, May 01, 2008

The search for the kill switch is on.

Are chip makers building electronic trapdoors in key military hardware? The Pentagon wants to know. Or, does it actually want to know how? Combine the use of embedded chips in livestock, pets and human beings for everything from IDs to pacemakers, with a penal system that is overcrowded at the best of times.

What easier than to simply activate the kill switch as needed, remotely or at an official execution? Saves all the muss and fuss of burdensomely expensive of court costs and ever skyrocketing prison budgets.

Repent! it and weep:

Newswise: The Hunt for the Kill Switch - The U.S. Department of Defense wants to know if chip makers are building remotely accessible kill switches into high-end microprocessors.

These days, the U.S. military consumes only about 1 percent of the world's integrated circuits, and off-shoring has begun to raise some alarms about the safety of the chips in the military's most mission-critical electronics.

Recognizing an enormous vulnerability, the DOD recently launched an extremely ambitious program to verify the integrity of the electronics that will underpin future additions to its arsenal.

In December, the DOD's advanced-research wing released details about a three-year initiative it calls the Trust in Integrated Circuits program. The findings from the program could give the military--and defense contractors who make sensitive microelectronics like the weapons systems for the F-35--a guaranteed method of determining whether their chips have been compromised with a kill switch.

But how exactly would you kill an integrated switch, and for what purpose? In "The Hunt for the Kill Switch," IEEE Spectrum's Sally Adee reports on the methods that could kill a chip, the possible consequences, and the methods being devised to verify the Pentagon's most important microchips.

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