New computer chip vulnerabilities discovered

Posted Dec 15, 2018 by Tim Sandle
It doesn't seem that long since the last computer chip vulnerability news, yet researchers have discovered new vulnerabilities relating to common computer chips.
Close up of a silicon chip
Close up of a silicon chip
Ioan Sameli (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Technologists working at Washington State University research team have discovered significant and previously unknown vulnerabilities relating to high-performance computer chips. These flaws are such that they could lead to failures in modern electronic devices.
2018 has not been a good one for computer chip manufacturers. As Digital Journal has reported, during August a new security flaw was detected by German researchers in relation to Intel. This came on the back of earlier concerns from January and March 2018 (the Meltdown and Spectre flaws). The Intel flaw meant that passwords can potentially be stolen.
With the new flaw, technologists found they were able to damage the on-chip communications system and shorten the lifetime of the whole computer chip significantly. This was achieved by adding a malicious workload. Such a code would include the actions of an electronics manufacturer in sending software updates that intentionally slow down earlier models, as so to encourage consumers to purchase new products. This is something both Apple and Samsung have been accused of (see, for example, The Guardian).
The vulnerability relates to the communications backbone of the chip. The researchers describe this aspect as the 'glue' that holds the chip together. By attacking a chip with a malicious workload, the researchers were able to achieve enhanced electromigration-induced stress and crosstalk noise, which negatively affects the chip's performance.
The new vulnerabilities have been written into a white paper titled "Abetting Planned Obsolescence by Aging 3D Networks-on-Chip", which was presented at the 2018 Twelfth IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Networks-on-Chip (NOCS) which took place in Italy.