Christopher Tarnovsky, who operates the California-based consulting firm
Flylogic Engineering, must strike dread into the heart of anyone working on
secure computer chips.
At the Black Hat DC, a computer-security conference in Washington, DC,
Tarnovsky gave an impressive demonstration of how even the most secure system
will fall under a sustained, determined attack.
Tarnovsky says that he spends almost every waking moment hacking chips. He
even owns a focused ion beam work station—a secret weapon for chip hackers.
Such a machine costs a quarter of a million dollars, used.
The target in Tarnovsky’s demonstration was the family of chips used for
trusted platform computing, and for controlling access to the Xbox 360, GSM SIM
cards, and satellite television transmissions. After six months of intense work,
Tarnovsky says he developed a technique that allows him to break one of these
chips in a matter of hours.