Torturing the Secret out of a Secure Chip

A trick for subverting secure transactions is publicized so the bad guys can't exploit it

3 min read

1 April 2010—A new chink has been found in the cryptographic armor that protects bank transactions, credit-card payments, and other secure Internet traffic. And although programmers have devised a patch for it, clever hackers might still be able to break through.

The hack, presented in March at a computer security conference in Dresden, Germany, involves lowering the input voltage on a computer’s cryptography chip set and collecting the errors that leak out when the power-starved chips try and (sometimes) fail to encode messages. Crooks would then use those errors to reconstruct the secret key on which the encryption is based. More important, say the hack’s creators, the same attack could also be performed from afar on stressed systems, such as computer motherboards that run too hot or Web servers that run too fast.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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