It is surprising how little is heard or done about the raising danger of hardware viruses.
Today’s electronic devices,-your phone, your tablet, your computer, even your car-, are extremely powerful and versatile. This is due to ever improving sophistication and complex architecture of the microchips they are built of. Unfortunately, this complexity is such that microchips design and their assembly are the fruit of an increasingly complex line of supply. Lines of development and supply cover all five continents and independent groups of engineers that cannot be on top of all the details of the whole extremely complicated design. Every single processor being built of millions of circuits, it is easy to understand that exhaustive testing is impossible.
“Trojan Viruses” hardware, in the form of additional minimal circuitry, thousands into millions-, to classic processors, have been designed and executed in universities and research organizations. Not much has been heard about it in the wide public, probably because not much can be done against the hardware viruses. Very much like the Trojan Horse of Antiquity, the virus can stay dormant into your electronic device until activated. Activation could come at a given date or triggered by an outside stimuli. The un-activated virus is totally undetectable as he has no activity and is physically hidden in a literal haystack of valid electronic circuits.
It is easy to imagine a criminal organization with enough resources to imbed such a hardware virus into microchips used for the assembly of smart phones or computers.
Worse even is the danger to National Security. When one realizes that most of the circuit printing and electronic assembly is done in Asia, one can wonder how easy it would be for, let us say, Chinese intelligence, to prepare a worldwide spyware, or even cyber warfare, effort. This is especially true if one knows that the Chinese invest in cyber warfare and cyber-security ten times more than the USA. When one realizes that all the infrastructure of a modern country is dependent upon computers, from air traffic to communications to power distribution, one can easily understand what crippling a few networks could do to a country.
This not-so-far-fetched scenario has been a theme of the newly released thriller “Rain Fund” by Marc Brem. Chilling thought! Something should be done about it and the public should be informed.