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Increasingly, hardware can be the entry point for a cyberattack. Among them are semiconductor chips that make it possible for electronic devices to process, store and transmit data.
As the use of electronic devices grows, their components have become increasingly vulnerable to malicious tampering and counterfeiting in ways that could compromise the safety of cars, airplanes, electric grids, defense systems — any of the growing number of technologies that depend on these tiny electronic components.
To address this risk, several universities in the US have established a new research center focused on protecting the security of semiconductors. Led by the University of Cincinnati, the new Center for Hardware and Embedded Systems Security and Trust (CHEST), is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) that serves as a hub for industry-focused research and currently comprises 23 members across industry and governmental laboratories.
UT Dallas leads the consortium’s research on the security and trust of wireless communication devices, threat detection and prevention, protection of intellectual property from unauthorized use, and provenance attestation, which involves a record that describes entities and processes involved in producing the devices.
Dr. Yiorgos Makris, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, Univ. of Texas at Dallas, said: “Suppose a bad actor replaces a chip during a service or upgrade, enabling capabilities that can cause the power distribution network to fail.. Semiconductor tampering also has implications for consumer electronics, such as wireless communication devices, where private data may be leaked by untrusted chips, or the automotive industry, where safety may be compromised by counterfeit parts.” The global shortage of semiconductors increases the risk of the use of counterfeit parts, Makris said. Desperate suppliers or consumers turn to the gray market to find parts.
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