The US Department of Defense once raised a concerned about the possibility of integrated chipsets and processors used in the military could be used to install ‘Hardware Trojans’ which would compromise on security.
And after 8 years, a published paper shows that scientists were able to bypass the Ivy Bridge processor encryptions by sabotaging the 3rd generation processor’s random number generator (RNG) instructions. This works by reducing the RNG from 128bits to 32 bits. Once the RNG is weakened and used to embed a trojan, none of the built-in 9800-90 and FIPS-140-2 compliant checking self tests were not able to detect any alterations.
Christof Paar, one of the researchers, said,”We want to stress that one of the major advantages of the proposed dopant trojan is that it cannot be detected using optical reverse-engineering since we only modify the dopant masks,” the researchers reported in their paper. “The introduced Trojans are similar to the commercially deployed code-obfuscation methods which also use different dopant polarity to prevent optical reverse-engineering. This suggests that our dopant trojans are extremely stealthy as well as practically feasible.”
However, Paar assured that there were no hardware Trojans were found to be circulating in the real world, and the techniques were made simply to prove that it is possible. After seeing that the paper points out that this procedure of getting through backdoors and bypassing checks undetected being feasible, most likely chipmakers (not just Intel) would be working to fix this issue in their future-gen chips.