A Chip Flaw Strips Away Hacking Protections for Millions of Devices

A Chip Flaw Strips Away Hacking Protections for Millions of Devices

Published By: Wired, 2/14/2017

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Dutch researchers have discovered a method of hacking commonly used microprocessors. Operating systems randomly assign the locations in memory where programs run, but this hack detects where a program is running, making bugs easier to exploit. If hackers figure out how to use this method, it could expose millions of computers to attacks — as it is impossible to fully fix with software updates alone.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of Article: 14

Extended Discussion Questions

  • Typically, if security issues exist in software, that software can be updated to resolve the problem. Based on this story, what generalizations can you make about the different impacts of software vs. hardware flaws?
  • Should the manufacturers of microprocessor chips be held responsible for any flaws that endanger the security of users’ information? Why or why not?
    • What kinds of regulations and consequences could be used to hold manufacturers responsible?
  • By revealing so much about their findings, the researchers are potentially providing enough information for hackers to reverse-engineer their methodology. Do researchers have an ethical responsibility to expose issues like the one discussed in the article, or should they keep them confidential?
    • Which course of action do you think will best protect users?

Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.3.1A Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • EK 7.3.1G Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts.

Banner Image:Network Visualization – Violet – Offset Crop“, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0.

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