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New Chip Brings Military Security to Commercial Processors

CPU Tech's Acalis chip offers defense muscle to commercial vendors

6 min read

16 April 2009—Last week, a spot check of electric grid systems revealed that hackers had infiltrated the U.S. electric grid. The government inspections, motivated by a 2007 Idaho National Laboratory demonstration of the vulnerabilities of the U.S. grid, revealed more than the inspectors had bargained for: The invaders had left behind potentially disruptive malware. A former U.S. official told the Associated Press that the culprit was ”almost without a doubt” state sponsored, and a follow-up listed Russia and China as suspects (although the Chinese government emphatically denied the charge this week). The increasing threat from better-financed hackers, the growing need to build security into a chip at the start of the chip-design process (rather than as an afterthought), and the blurring line between military and civilian targets have been at the center of many U.S. Department of Defense concerns. The mounting hysteria has led the government to pour millions into the problem, and on 1 April, Congress introduced a bill that would let the president declare a ”cybersecurity emergency,” shutting down Web traffic to compromised infrastructure such as the power grid.

But the answer could be found in something decidedly less grandiose: Last month, Pleasanton, Calif.–based CPU Tech introduced into the commercial market a secure processor that had previously been available only for military systems. The Acalis CPU872 is the first microprocessor born of new methods the Pentagon learned from its hunt for secret kill switches in the commercial chips the agency buys. But beyond just defense contractors, CPU Tech is targeting commercial users of PowerPC processors at big firms and agencies including those responsible for securing public infrastructure, such as electric power generators and subway systems.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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