Magazine article National Defense

DARPA Looks for Ways to Verify Integrated Computer Chip Security

Magazine article National Defense

DARPA Looks for Ways to Verify Integrated Computer Chip Security

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Trust, but verify," was once the axiom that ruled the world of nuclear deterrence.

A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program seeks to do the same with the integrated computer chips that are now embedded in every major U.S. military weapon system.

Malicious circuits, defined by DARPA as "something more" than what is specified by the system designer, can be inserted into integrated chips (ICs) during the design, manufacture and packaging phases, said Dean Collins, a program manager at the agency's microsystems technology office. Field programmable gate arrays--chips that can be altered after a weapon system has already been fielded--are another possible vulnerability, he said.

"Drastic changes in functionality can occur with only a few changes in interconnections," he said at a DARPA conference.

Once, the integrated chips that operate the complex weapon systems the U.S. military depends upon were manufactured domestically. In the 1960s, the Defense Department was the world's leading consumer of the rapidly advancing technology. Today, it buys less than 1 percent of all ICs, and its influence on the market is minimal, Collins said. …

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