Processor used to secure Xbox 360 hacked, claims researcher

Researcher at Black Hat DC conference claims to have hacked Infineon SLE 66 CL PC processor

A researcher with expertise in hacking hardware Tuesday detailed at the Black Hat DC conference how it's possible to subvert the security of a processor used to protect computers, smartcards and even Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming system.

Christopher Tarnovsky, a researcher at Flylogic Engineering, said he has hacked an Infineon SLE 66 CL PC processor that is also used with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chips. He emphasized that his research shows TPM, which was developed as an industry specification for hardware-based computer security by the Trusted Computing Group and has been implemented in hardware by Infineon and other manufacturers, is not as secure as presumed. TPM can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including storage of encryption keys and is used with Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption technology.

"The TPM 1.2 chip is not as secure as the vendor tries to tell you it is," Tarnovsky said. "I can recover all your secrets inside this chip. Your keys to the Xbox 360, the licensing chip," plus the RSA cryptoengine, if it's used. "There's nothing in this device I can't see."

Tarnovsky's method, as he described it, entailed jumping the wire into the internal circuitry of the Infineon chips to create a bypass into the core. Tarnovsky acknowledged it took him six months to figure out how to effectively penetrate it, which required bypassing circuitry on chips he purchased inexpensively from Chinese manufacturers.

Tarnovsky's examination process involved subtle use of hardware-based liquid chemical and gas technologies in a lab setting to probe with specialized needles to build tungsten bridges. "Once I'm physically through the device, I have to eavesdrop on the databus," he said, adding "I can sit in the databus and listen." At this point, it now takes him about six hours to break the licensing keys to the XBox 360.

Tarnovsky, with the excruciating detail of a surgeon discussing a heart bypass operation, said he had shared his findings with Infineon. But he said that over the past month the company appeared to have dropped contact with him after he informed Infineon how he had hacked TPM, even though he had shared source code with them to prove what progress he had made in subverting the Infineon smartcard processor.

Speaking with reporters, Tarnovsky said Infineon had claimed the type of exploit he did wasn't really possible. But the fact that it can be done raises serious questions about security in TPM modules that should be addressed by the industry, he pointed out, adding two other manufacturers make TPM modules and he may be examining their products next. He acknowledged his hardware-hacking methods are probably not easy to duplicate and he doesn't plan to share them widely.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?