Re: OT: And Now...The Manchurian Microchip ( Robert Eringer )
- From: Juha Nieminen <nospam@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2008 19:02:45 GMT
"It is there, deep inside your computer, if they decide to call it up," the
security chief of a multinational corporation told The Investigator. "It is
capable of providing Chinese intelligence with everything stored on your
system -- on everyone's system -- from e-mail to documents. I call it Call
Home Technology. It doesn't mean to say they're sucking data from everyone's
computer today, it means the Chinese think ahead -- and they now have the
potential to do it when it suits their purposes."
It would be interesting exactly how this would work.
Exactly how would the Chinese "call it up"? The article seems to quite
conveniently pass on giving any details. The only logical assumption is
that they would do so through the internet.
But if this secret signal comes from the internet, exactly how is this
(again conveniently unspecified) "microchip" able to detect this signal?
Which "microchip" is it anyways?
I have hard time believing it's the CPU. I don't know where exactly
Intel and AMD are producing their chips, but even if they were produced
in China, I have hard time believing that neither of the companies has
noticed that the Chinese are adding extra circuitry to the CPU. Given
the complexity of the CPU it would be quite an amazing feat from the
Chinese to do that without making the CPU unstable, change its power
consumption and otherwise keep it hidden so that testers at Intel and
AMD never notice. I also find it hard to believe that the factories in
China could keep the whole process so secret that the people of neither
company suspects anything.
Even if it *was* the CPU, there would still be a multitude of problems
in this whole scheme. There are tons and tons of different ethernet
cards, wlan cards, homepna cards, modems... you name it, and they mostly
work in different ways at hardware level. The reason why the OS is able
to use them all is because of *drivers*. Drivers are those pieces of
software which allow the OS to use the network card regardless of how it
works at hardware level. The CPU itself cannot directly know about
network drivers and how they work. It would require quite a substantial
amount of actual software embedded in the CPU for it to be able to
detect what code is actually a network driver, and affect the data it's
So if it's not the CPU, what then? The only other plausible microchip
is the one in the network card itself. However, exactly how is the
microchip in the network card able to "provide Chinese intelligence with
everything stored on your system -- on everyone's system -- from e-mail
to documents"? There are only two possibilities: Either the network
card, somehow, accesses your hard disks directly (is it even possible?),
knows of all possible hard disk hardware and file systems, and is able
to send the data through the internet, or the network card contains a
substantially large piece of software which it loads to RAM (is that
possible either?) and makes the CPU run it (is it possible?). Somehow I
find it unlikely that a network card would be able to take control of
the computer, although if anything, this could perhaps be the most
plausible of scenarios.
Any other microchip in a computer is even more unlikely because the
problems are even larger. Such a microchip would have to be able to
either access and use the network card and other hardware in the system
(which is extremely difficult without software drivers) or alternatively
store a significant amount of data as a program and be somehow able to
make the CPU run it. And this without neither Intel nor AMD ever finding
out that their CPU is being tampered with.
This article conveniently leaves out all the technical details and
sounds nothing more than fear-mongering, which it probably solely is.
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