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Scary or Amazing?

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  • Scary or Amazing?

    Computer security booming field. Here's why.

    An emerging form of hacking techniques targets the fundamental physical properties of computation.
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor,

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  • #2
    Fascinating. Aside from enhancing my skill set , I wonder how much of this "leakage" comes into play at smaller levels (not deliberate sabotage or banging on a system) to cause sonic anomalies in recording, mastering or playback. I had the impression that some hardcore folks use Linux, and are heavily encrypted, to avoid backdoors, but don't know enough about the technical inner workings to do more than speculate. I gather that the "secure environment" stuff at the government level is heavily shielded, but if someone can get into an electrical or signal connection, they are "in"- kind of like having a squirrel in the house. It may not know exactly where it is going, but oh, the havoc it wreaks in the process.
    I don't often need highly secure environments these days, but when I do, I prefer a quill pen and fleet-footed mercury in powder.


    • #3
      I'd say it's both scary and amazing. The phenomena has been known and talked about for the last couple of years. Wikipedia has a good description for those wanting a bit more detail: . Fundamentally, one is seeing the first signs that chip manufacturing is reaching some fundamental limits. The individual memory cells have gotten so small that they store a very small number of electrons to create a "1". The small number of electrons means that the DRAM chips are susceptible to subtle manipulation that can cause errors if one understands how a DRAM works and what access patterns can inadvertently cause those few electrons to leak away.
      These unwanted leakage paths couldn't be exploited in the past because there were enough electrons stored in a memory cell that it wasn't possible to disturb the bit. Now that this mechanism has been publicized, most DRAM manufacturers claim that their latest parts have eliminated this problem but I'm not sure that the data supports their claims. Earlier this year I saw a presentation where independent researchers testings so called "improved parts" and the parts still show this problem, even when the manufacturers said it was fixed.
      In normal operation, one won't see this effect. One has to intentionally do something that doesn't normally occur when running typical applications on one's computer.

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      • #4
        Doesn't happen with tubes...