During a Q&A in which he’d promised to answer any questions put to him, The CEO of computer chip company Intel stayed silent when asked about NSA spying.
Brian Krzanich was taking part in a Reddit online chat session, and set about answering all manner of the website users’ questions, from the company’s relationship with Apple to his favourite type of sandwich. However, when it came to talking about hardware security in the wake of revelations regarding NSA mass spying, he suddenly had nothing to say.
When a second Redditer pursued the line of questioning, asking for a response to questions on the security level of Intel processors, Krzanich still did not address the question.
Reddit users responded with anger and ridicule:
“Hi Reddit! I’m Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel. Ask me anything!” (except whether NSA has backdoored our chips) – http://t.co/VSM6SoW6ZJ
— Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) February 19, 2014
CEO of Intel does a Reddit AMA. Top two questions are very pointed inquiries about the NSA. Crickets. http://t.co/beP2ji1P4E
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) February 19, 2014
@trevortimm “Blink twice if you’re not allowed to answer this question.”
— Cameron Desautels (@camdez) February 19, 2014
The line of questioning follows claims by hardware security experts that Intel processors have had backdoors built into them by the NSA.
Last Summer, shortly after the Snowden leaks began to escalate, Steve Blank, recognized as one of Silicon Valleys leading experts, noted that he firmly believed NSA has backdoor access into Intel and AMD chips. He noted how the leaks highlighted how backdoor “hacking” is the NSA’s go to technique because it is much easier than trying to crack encryption.
“Perhaps the NSA – legally compelling the chip vendors and/or Microsoft, or working outside of them – have compromised the microcode updates that affect most computers.” Blank wrote at the time.
The New York Times, Pro Publica, and The Guardian all reported in September, the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ work to defeat encryption technologies by working with chipmakers to insert backdoors, or cryptographic weaknesses, in their products. This allows the spooks to ” decode vast swaths of the Internet’s encrypted traffic,” as reported by ArsTechnica.
Others have claimed that newer Intel chips are hackable and remotely accessible, even when the computer is turned off and disconnected from the internet.
In addition, a leaked NSA slide even mocks Intel’s slogan ‘Intel Inside’, transforming it into “TAO Inside”, an abbreviation for NSA’s ‘Tailored Access Operations’ Inside.
In December, developers of the FreeBSD operating system noted that they could no longer trust Intel and Via’s chip-based cryptographic security, saying that there was a very high possibility that the NSA had backdoor access.
While Intel has previously denied the NSA has backdoor access to their products, Krzanich’s dead air space during the recent Reddit Q&A will only serve to heighten fears that Intel is in bed with the NSA and that their hardware cannot be trusted.
Easy, just make your own CPU. 😉