Friday Squid Blogging: Build a Squid

An interactive animation from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Posted on July 25, 2014 at 4:04 PM • 173 Comments


JamieJuly 25, 2014 4:38 PM

Wired posted an interesting article today about some new cell phone apps that can digitally scan keys and upload that data to the cloud for remote storage and key duplication at store kiosks. I'm counting the days until we see news of the first mass breach of scanned house key data!

BenniJuly 25, 2014 4:41 PM

After the judges at the NSA investigation comission of the german parliament noted that most of the foreign intelligence program of the BND is against the constitution, the german government now answered that

1)The german government has noted the opinion of the german judges.
2) Everything what the BND does is legal and justified.
3) in general the german government only wants to act after the investigation comission has finished, (which could, however, take some years).....

Furthermore the german government was asked what was in the letter that it had send to the US, asking questions on the criminal activities that the US government suspects Edward Snowden has done. (Note that interpol does exclude political crimes as a reason for extradition)

The german government answered, that not even these questions can be published, because

1) this would perhaps modify the answers of the US government
2) decisions on extradition requests from other governments regularly contain an assessment of the juridical standards of the state that requests the extraditions. The letter sent to the US government is used with respect to this assessment. If the questions would become public, it could affect the cooperation of germany with the united states on extraditions...

In other words:

If this letter would become publicly known it would show the US as a government of low juridical standards and they fear Germany could never extradite anyone to the United States....

Finally, the russian government offers money if soneone provides a way to unmask tor:

On one hand this is good, since thereby we know that they can not do this and they are not even able to deploy attacks like this

mj12July 25, 2014 4:46 PM

re: Matasano crypto challenges

Does anyone possess the full set of 48 challenges?
I sent them an e-mail a few moons ago and the silence was the answer. I surmise they are deadly busy, having heard they reply to e-mails manually. Anyway, I'd like to try just for myself.

Also, please suggest me something to read about OPSEC.

Tarnation. Too much stuff to learn.

BenniJuly 25, 2014 7:11 PM

@Ismar, good that the journalists now get their hands on the more dirty work.

Now I always wonder what are these "decryption capabilities in:
"The Saudi Ministry of Defense also relies on the NSA for help with “signals analysis equipment upgrades, decryption capabilities and advanced training on a wide range of topics.” "

I mean every sane system should use rsa algorithm. what can they "decrypt" there?

Name (required)July 25, 2014 8:26 PM

I hope, but don't know, that the same ppl with the skill to de-anonymize Tor have more lucrative crimes to keep them busy. Even better that they universally find it most useful as is.

Wonder also how this bodes for Ed Snowden's near-term personal security. We already know he will get only an unfair trial in the States, and that almost no other country can justify (politically, to themselves) granting him asylum.

RickJuly 25, 2014 8:58 PM

Here are the rules used by the US government to place you on a watchlist. Quote from the article:

"The rulebook, which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date."


Download US Government's "2013 Watchlist Guidance" in *.PDF format (144 MB):

Interesting: from the article, "The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted."

Really interesting: gun owners beware-- see section 5.8.3.

My comment: the whole thing seems Orwellian to me.

Bob S.July 25, 2014 9:28 PM

@Benni, re:
"1)The german government has noted the opinion of the german judges.
2) Everything what the BND does is legal and justified."

That's EXACTLY what the American government says about the NSA.

The problem with our relations with Germany right now is the BND keeps secrets from their elected officials just as much as the NSA keeps American politicians in the dark. German officials have been played for fools. Maybe rightly so. Now they must speechify to give the appearance of credibility.

It's like some NWO thing where the various military organizations run their own secret parallel government, play by their own rules and do it so well the politicians elected to manage them are completely clueless and afraid to ask questions.

I have to wonder whether their cavalier lawlessness is worth it. IF we were involved in some WWII scale war, I would say maybe, temporarily.

What we are facing now however is peace time STASI-like electronic martial law where we have no rights, ...and the military has no limits.

BuckJuly 25, 2014 9:34 PM


I've always wondered about those key kiosks... The ones I've seen tend not to take cash, and you're credit card number is already inextricably linked to you're address and full name, so... Sounds like a great feature for black bag teams! ;-)

Nick PJuly 26, 2014 12:28 AM

@ Jacob

LOL. Wow that's such senseless bullshit on so many levels I don't know where to begin. It actually reads like a spambot wrote it. The one interesting (and neat) thing is that their graphic references Orange Book's "A1 level." I thought that, other than INFOSEC professors and a few companies, I was the only one on the Internet that still references it. It's so old and little mentioned that I think that knocks out the spam bot hypothesis. Maybe it's a person that read materials from INFOSEC 101, Crypto 101, English 101, and Bullshit for Profit 401. Ya think?

FigureitoutJuly 26, 2014 12:45 AM

Nick P RE: mj12 & OPSEC
This should be a nice start for you.
--Just a start, extremely lacking depending on your opponents. mj12, OPSEC is the worst thing ever, practice by beginning to implement a routine into your day, adding an "annoyance" but it is a verification and stop-point to some attacks. Before you ever decide to "go live" you need backups hidden away and plan out as many backup plans for when something goes wrong. In short, it is a cerebral paranoid activity.

A better essay *cough Nick P* is warranted to organize thoughts, maybe I'll give it a shot sometime; but it would vary depending on your location, what your life's like, what you're like, and on and on so it's unique to you. This guy is so paranoid he couldn't make that insightful of a presentation, that is what OPSEC does to you. You can't go thru by "Trusting No-One", he breaks that rule using some of his routers, TOR, or giving a presentation...

So just be careful. It is however satisfying when it pays off (eventually).

/* Addition to a little "comic respite" for the programming fanatics *cough Gerard Van Voren cough*that I came across today */

So you know how you always have an FAQ section on just about anywhere, well what about an IAQ, as in "Infrequently Asked Questions"? Wouldn't that potentially be way more helpful if you find yourself stuck in some weird situation? Well I came across a link doing some reading today, pretty funny.

I know it's about C, and some people (you know who you are) will flip sh*t, but the overall concepts remain very similar across most languages, just the higher you go the less you need to know; so you can start saying things very abstracted from dirty physics.

A joke I really like was the one about "auto", what the hell is the point of that? lol, it's for "declaring vehicles"...

But, I had an exciting connection today, well..kind of. So there's this frequency, 32.768kHz for RTC's that is a very common frequency in a crystal oscillator as 32768 = 215. This is due to being able to divide the clock down to 1Hz for timing purposes, or getting the 1Hz freq. needed for timing the seconds on a clock. But what is a typical range you see w/ a 4-bit integer, -32768 TO 32767. So there must be a relation, the code is reliant on the clock rate of the crystal. Isn't that cool? What a weird number.

BuckJuly 26, 2014 1:59 AM


On one hand this is good, since thereby we know that they can not do this and they are not even able to deploy attacks like this
On the other hand... This means nothing, and is no more than a recruitment drive! ;-)
Benni, sometimes I'm not sure if you simply have an excellent grasp of American sarcasm, if you're really that clever with bilingualism, or if it's pure coincidence...
Gotta love 'thrust' inplace of 'trust' as if I were just forced into trusting those CA's! :-D

Nick PJuly 26, 2014 2:35 AM

@ Buck

Observations like that are one of the many reasons I enjoy reading your posts here. Haha.

WaelJuly 26, 2014 2:56 AM


A joke I really like was the one about "auto", what the hell is the point of that? lol, it's for "declaring vehicles".
Nice one! I really like this one too.

JacobJuly 26, 2014 4:04 AM

Nick P :
"Maybe it's a person that read materials from INFOSEC 101, Crypto 101, English 101, and Bullshit for Profit 401"

I really don't know what to make of it.
BfP 401 should be a somewhat advanced class, and they probably teach in that class that selling a cold fusion breakthrough, or, - if you are really after the big money - weight-loss miracle concoction, is much more profitable than crypto stuff where success is measured by the number of citations to your papers and not by the number which appears in your bank account.

NateJuly 26, 2014 5:24 AM

"The basis of RMX is built upon the absolutely new class of the mathematical functions worked out by us which give full description of the structure and working principle of physical vacuum. "

Excellent, so it's not only an unbreakable cipher AND a fundamental mathematical breakthrough, it's also a correct physical Theory of Everything.

I'm sure the authors will be receiving their Physics Nobel next year.

NateJuly 26, 2014 5:29 AM

Ah yes, here it is. It's also a free energy perpetual motion generator as well. The PhD thesis, soon to be making waves on the arXiv, is here.

"In this system principle of energy multiplication is based on that less powerful motor rotate more powerful generator of the energy. In this construction there was used the third type of topology developed by our scientists physics: FULL SCREENING OF CAUSATIVE RELATIONS (in the system reverse magnetic force was removed from the side of stator to the rotor in generator, thereby rotor no longer undergo resistance to the rotation). The difference of this system from many similar ones is that she’s NONRESONANCE SYSTEM."

Indeed she is. Indeed she is.

And she only costs 350 million Euros. I think I know a deposed Nigerian prince who would be very interested in investing in this.

Clive RobinsonJuly 26, 2014 5:54 AM

@ Jacob,

When I see sites like that I can not get the nagging suspicion out of my mind that at least one of them is a "Rat Maze" experiment, and any responders will become points on a graph in the write up of some psych degree gullibility project.

Thus I secretly hope to see hidden away some disclaimer similar to that you see at the end of movies "No Humans were hurt during..."

Clive RobinsonJuly 26, 2014 6:39 AM

@ Figureitout,

The story behind the choice of 32KHz for watch crystals is given in a Motorola McMos book, and it has many parts.

It basicaly boils down to the limitations of what could be put on a CMOS chip and how to keep the power required down to less than the capacity of one of the new hearing aid batteries and have it last over a year.

Back when CMOS 4000 chips were newish, I built my own battery powered clock and even though it used tiny amounts of current the AA batteries I was using were not lasting a year. Finding out why taught me a lot about what manufacturers don't put in their data sheets and the "hidden series and parallel components" of "self discharge" caused by the chemistry of batteries.

One of the big problems they had was actually finding a crystal that was small enough for a watch. The prefered "A cut" of the time would have been quite large and have drive issues, the "B cut" though small and having low drive requirments was unpopular at the time due to both the mechanical and electrical fragility of them.

Oh and the trick to get them to oscillate, was to pick the other components to bias the CMOS inverter into a linear amplifier as well as an RC oscillator around 32K, where the crystal impedence change when it resonated shunted one of the RC components out, but the component still had to present the correct load to the crystal to keep it on the correct frequency. It's why when you look in 4000 series data book you see different values of R and C given for different crystal frequencies.

In some ways it's come full circle, back then high frequency stability was obtained using "Crystal Ovens" where a heating element was analogue stabalised at say 70C. These days you will find some modern TCXOs are tiny micro controlers that measure the temprature and use this to calculate an offset which is applied to correct the frequency. It uses a lot less power, works over a greater temprature range and does not age the crystal or circuit in the way the old ovens did, so overall is more reliable as well as a lot smaller, lighter and less power hungry.

JacobJuly 26, 2014 7:09 AM


I looked at this "breakthrough" company a bit deeper: I find it funny that in my prior post I indicated that they would make more money peddling "cold fusion (aka free energy)" or weight-loss miracle pills - and guess what? they do have a breakthrough in the free energy realm, specializing in direct programming of physical vacuum, full screening of causative relations etc.

The parent company appears to be ABK Capital Ltd. (bottom of page on the site).
A guy who was interested in their free-energy offering got in touch with them. You can read more at

What strikes me most funny is that that guy is really serious about their offering, arranging a conference etc, while at the bottom of his page he has this quote:

"When you're one step ahead of the crowd you're a genius. When you're two steps ahead, you're a crackpot." -- Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Feb. 1998)

65535July 26, 2014 7:19 AM

@ Terry Cloth

I looked the “The Intercept’s” ‘Watchlist guidance' document in pdf form. I found it very broad and troubling.

It appears that almost any person can be put on a watchlist and denied travel rights (or severe interrogation and search). That is very ugly stuff.

See Watchlist-guidance pdf:

The first problem is that people are not allowed to know if they are on a watch list [until they get interrogated or searched]. If you were improperly put on the "watchlist" it would be hard to fix.


“1.21 Watchlisting Disclosures. The general policy of the U.S. Government is to neither confirm or deny an individual’s watchlist status.”

Next problem is the definition of a “Terrorist” and “Suspected terrorist”


“1.13 The relevant TERRORISM screening Presidential Directives use words and phrases to describe a KNOWN or SUSPECTED TERRORIST subject to TERRORIST screening without defining them: “TERROSRIST INFORMATION” (HSPD-6), TERRORISM” (HSPD-6), “appropriately suspected” (HSPD-6), “reasonably suspected” (HSPD-11)…

“1.14 Neither HSPD-6 OR HSPD-11 defines “TERRORISM and/or Terrorist Activities”…1.18 A second addendum to the TSC MOU, Addendum B, which supplements and incorporates by reference all provisions of the TSC MOU, …became effective on January 18, 2007… introduces the term TERRORSTS Identifiers to more clearly describe the type of TERRORIST identity elements that are deemed, without regard to the classification of the source material from which it is drawn. TERRORIST IDENTIFIERS include those listed in Addendum B (i.e., names and aliases; dates of birth; places of birth; unique identifiers… known locations; photographs or renderings… employment data; license plate numbers; and any other TERRORIST IDENTIFIERS that ORIGINATORS specifically provide … For example, email addresses and phone numbers are increasingly useful for screening purposes…"

[See Addendum B approximately page 96 in pdf file, which seems to cover all persons in and out of the USA]

[Collectors of “Terrorist and Suspected Terrorists departments page 13 of pdf]

“1.26 ORIGINATOR, NOMINATORS, AGGREGATORS, and SCREENERS. All Executive Departments and Agencies have responsibility or collecting… and sharing TERRORISM INFORMATION to support the watchlisting processors..."

[This seems to be all intelligence agencies, foreign intelligence agencies, the FBI, local law enforcement and even a individual snitch program]

“IX NOMINATION PROCEDURES [Nomination of persons to watchlist appears broad and all encompassing regardless of national origin]

“1.47 Distinctions between U.S. PERSONS under Executive Order 12333 and Aliens under Immigration and Nationality Act. This watchlist Guidance generally adopts the definition of U.S. PERSON from Executive Order 12333 (as Amended) [see EO 12333 for further definition ]... Defines... A United States citizen, an alien known by the intelligence element concerned to be a permanent resident alien, an unincorporated association substantially composed of United States citizens or permanent resident aliens, or a corporation incorporated in the United States, except for a corporation directed or controlled by a foreign government… The Watchlisting Guidance also contains certain exceptions to the minimum substantive derogatory standards for TERRORIST watchlisting… under Executive Order 12333…"

[Thus, almost anybody associated with a foreign person could be on the “Watchlist”]

[TIDE watchlist data base]

“1.53 Types of records in TIDE. There are two types of records in TIDE:
1.53.1 TERRORIST Records. …TIDE are for KNOWN or SUSPECTED international TERRORISTS… Only a small percentage of TERRORIST records in TIDE concern U.S. PERSONS [possibly political dissidents or free speech advocates]. “1.53.2 Non-TERRORIST records… Thes records are generally of familial family members or associates of KNOWN or SUSPECTED TERRORISTS and assist… in tracking of KNOWN TERRORISTS. These “Non-TERRORISTS” include:

[Almost any person]

" Alien Spouses and Children of TERRORISTS… TIDE exports records pertaining to alien spouses and children of alien international TERRORIST (also knows as TIDE Categor Code 17)…

" Other Relatives. TIDE also includes “non-TERRORIST’ records of individual who have a close relationship to a KNOWN or SUSPECTED … TERRORIST but are not alien spouses or children of a TERRORIST… Thus, these “other relatives” could be U.S. PERSONS or non-U.S. PERSONS…"

[See footnote 28 and section 212 FISA notes… unfortunately FISA is classified!]”

“1.58 Expedited Nomination Procedures for Individual Nomination. If exigent circumstances exist (imminent travel and/or threat) where a individual nomination into the TSDB needs to be expedited… 1.58.1 The NOMINATOR must first contact the TSOC at 866- [redacted] (toll free number or at 571- [redacted]…1.59 Expedited Nomination Procedure… Threat-based Categories… due consideration should be given to:"

" The harm to public safety posted by the theat;
" The clarity … of the information giving rise to the threat… and suspected perpetrators;
" Te anticipated impact on international and domestic travel, civil liberties, and foreign relations, and
" The best available screening tools…"

[It would appear that all citizens except those employed in the government Agencies, Law enforcement and TSA are potential “nominees” of the “watchlist” thus, creating a one-way mirror of surveillance on all citizens not in government or law enforcement.]


[Huge loop hole]

"2.3 SCREENER Discretion. As appropriate, SCREENERS have the discretion to decide not to include in their screening system …"

[TSA friends of theirs and the like.]

"2.4 TSDB… NOMINATING AGENCIES should also provide an additiona identifying information available. In addition to a last name, nominations must include:
"2.4.1 first name;
"2.4.2 Or any one of the following identifiers:
" Full date of birth;
" Passport number;
" Unique identifying numbers such as alien registration, visa numbers and social security numbers;
" Telephone number(s);
" E-mail address(es)
" License plate numbers(s)"


"5.11.1 ENCOUNTER information identified for collection in Addendum B to the TSC MOU…
1. Photographs
2. Fingerprints
3. Pocket litter
4. Written data

"5.11.2 Additional item of potential interest when lawfully collected during and encounter…
1. Contemporaneous report including the impression or observations recorded by an official involven in the ENCOUNTER:
a) Reason…
b) ICE Intel Reports
c) FBI Reports [and so on]"

"5. Travel-related information:
a) Passport….
b) Any visa…
c) Travel itineraries
d) Tickets (e.g., plane, train, boat)
e) Hotels
f) Rental cars
g) Reservation method (e.g., via travel agency or travel website)
h) PNR data
i) Travel manifests
j) Luggage or baggage tags
k) Claim checks
l) Storage locker keys
m) Shipping documents and receipts
n) Automated Identification system (AIS) information.
o) Foreign airport security check stickers or labels
p) Conference/Seminar materials (e.g., invitation, brochure, schedule)"

"6) Information about gold and jewelry worn by person at time of ENCOUNTER"

"7) General items information
a) Business cards
b) Phone numbers
c) Address books
d) Email addresses
e) Any cards with an electronic strp on it (hotel cards, grocery cards, gift cards, frequent flyer cards)
f) Pre-paid phone cards
g) Insurance cards
h) Medical/Health insurance information
i) Prescription information (e.g., doctor, pharmacy information)
j) Sales receipts
k) Any additional biographic or biometric identifier to enhance identity matching of associates or family members with a person whis is a POSITIVE MATCH to a Known or SUSPECTED TERRORIST)
l) Copies of identification documents obtained during the ENCOUNTER with a person who is a POSITIVE MATCH to a KNOWN or SUSPECTED TERRORIST.
m) Any Computer, uniform resource locator (URL), or Internet protocol (IP) address information
n) Calendars/schedulers"

"10. Financial information:
a) Check book…
b) Bank account numbers
c) Credit cards, especially those issued by U.S. Banks carried by non U.S. Persons.
d) Tax records
e) Business financial records
f) Bank statements
g) Credit card or billing statements
h) Utility bills
i) Anything with an account number
j) Wire transfer information…
k) Denomination of money being carried…
l) Automated teller machine (ATM) receipts
M) Ledgers"

"11. Electronic media/devices observed or copied
a) Cell phone list and speed dial numbers
b) Laptop images
c) GPS
d) Thumb drives
e) Disks
f) iPod or MP3
g) PDAs
h) Kindle or iPad
i) Cameras
j) Video and/or voice recorders
k) Pagers
l) Any electronic storage media"

"15. Miscellaneous item information
a) Long term storage facilities
b)Social networking accounts (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIN, ICQ)
c) Titles of books, DVD/CD, brochures being carried (e.g., new, dog-eared, annotated, unopened, professional journals)
d) Letters, envelopes
e) Letters of Introduction
f) Animal information"

It would appear that any encounter with any law enforcement officer or TSA agent with a “reasonable, articulatable, suspicion" of you with a "Terrorist" or "Suspected Terrorist" could cause an entire search of all of your possessions and denial of travel. I don’t know how many “degrees” or “hops” this would include but I do know the TSA can make you turn on computers and the like at their discretion. This is close to a police state situation!

The “Lone wolf” loop hole provides for almost unlimited surveillance on individual not associated the terrorist groups. The appendix 1 to 11 is very troubling [page 81 to 166]:

mj12July 26, 2014 8:31 AM

@Nick P, @Figureitout


re: Watchlist Guidance
A few months ago Greenwald, if my memory does not fail me, made a statement about 'the biggest Snowden revelation comes soon'. So it has come?

Clive RobinsonJuly 26, 2014 9:38 AM

@ Nick P, Wael & others talking languages,

It would appear that Linus is a little upset with GCC-4.9.0 antics currently.

With his favourite "brown stuff" word for a mess, liberally spread over his communication as though flung out from a fan ;-)

I "truss" the GCC devs have girded their loins, as there's incoming with steel toe caps ;-)

SoWhatDidYouExpect?July 26, 2014 10:27 AM

Remember, the Watchlist Guidance has a purpose. That is, to influence, intimidate, or control certain targets in order to gain credibility for questionable actions taken by those in power (commonly referred to as the overlords).

While much of the document seems incredulous, the basis has been established in 9/11 with the TSA no fly list. This is the natural extension, and essentially the bulk of autocratic governments such as dictatorships that we all know and hate. It is essentially using the quasi-rule of democracy, taking over a free nation with an established constitution, and using that constitution against the citizens, without a shot being fired (that is, no revolution).

While the current administration and legislature admonishes a large foreign power for their militaristic actions in another bordering sovereign nation, if that power had performed its takeover that way it is being accomplished here, nothing would have been said.

deruyJuly 26, 2014 10:41 AM

"A talk titled 'You don’t have to be the NSA to Break Tor: De-Anonymizing Users on a Budget,' which was to be presented at the reputable Black Hat hacker conference in August, was pulled without explanation earlier this week."

Has anyone heard anything about this?

AnuraJuly 26, 2014 10:53 AM


Linus, never change. That said GCC and Linux both suffer from the same disease of putting performance as top priority and having a old (and therefore messy) codebase.

Nick PJuly 26, 2014 2:19 PM

@ Clive

That was funny. Most interesting is the contrast between how Linus talks to them and how they replied to him. Makes him look even more like an a**hole. They fixed it promptly though.

On issue of compilers, I think this situation illustrates why current compiler design methods suck. The certifying compilers that check invariants during compilation could be told, for example, that you can use a stack unless you declared it. Each transformation would produce information that allowed safety, performance, etc checks to happen. LLVM is designed in a similar vein, albeit for optimization. The best example is still CompCert as independent testing showed no bugs in their [large] middle end thanks to formal verification activities.

Nick PJuly 26, 2014 2:33 PM

@ Clive

I was checking to see current work on certifying compilers when I found this gem. It's the paper by CompCert team on how they added verified floating point to their compiler. They pointed out that, with optimization on, GCC will do all kinds of weird things with floating point. I often avoided floating point just because of seeming compiler or hardware bugs in it. Yet, I'm astonished to see a quote in their paper from GCC developer that says *it's intentional*. Matter of fact, both C and Java standards allow for incorrect floating point operation for performance reasons. Fortran was the only one that specified mathematical correctness. And now CompCert does as well.

So, the floating point errors are *by design* and "won't be fixed." How ridiculous!

FigureitoutJuly 26, 2014 3:36 PM

--Hah, that was good. Waitress got him good. I forgot the "+C" on a test one time...those errors make me so mad...

Clive Robinson
--Very, very interesting. I think I'm looking for a connection that's not there. It's just a weird number, like there's many many more all thru-out science, I don't get how people arrive at them; just can't comprehend that brilliance like 400+ years ago.

A recent version is a hash function from DJB, called djb2. The "magic number" is 33. I've been aware for a long time the power of the number 3. Pi's first integer is 3, e can nearly be rounded up to 3; those are 2 extremely important numbers. But here, 33. Just mysterious...

But anyway back to the OSC's, I think a patent explained what they did..? Used another current source just for power up for a set-time then shut back down. People can have a look at this patent for what Clive's talking about if interested of course:

Also this paper touches on this subject pretty well (from Motorola):

overall is more reliable as well as a lot smaller, lighter and less power hungry.
--Yeah, I've put considerable time into a chip for work, as in how it works, and it's just incredible. Besides I'm still shoddy on some areas or just can't confidently say "this is how it works", it's been developed so much and just gets incredible performance for such low power.

/* Off Topic */

So I've solved my power issues w/ that old laptop I bought recently. This laptop is so old, I don't think there's a datasheet online for it (surely there is somewhere...). But for anyone else who wasn't fortunate to live back in the 80's or 90's and stock up on some old hardware and are looking to get some, and you for some reason aren't given a power cable (man that's a stretch lol), here's the solution; it's easy.

On the back of the computer, unless it's been scratched away, it should say something like "Wide Range Input", in my case it's from 100-240V (!). This means you do not need that extra little external power supply like you see w/ all the laptops today, you can plug in straight AC to the back. You just need to get a 3-pronged AC cord, which is like $8 at an electronics store.

It also hilariously says to "make sure to only connect to GROUNDED OUTLET", my dad joked that "back in the day" this wasn't such a common nonproblem like it is today where we don't even think if an outlet is grounded. Further showing the age of this computer...

Now I would like to take it into work and use the way-too-expensive-for-me spectrum analyzer in a cage to see just how badly the PS leaks and where, maybe even compare w/ my newer laptop to see if there's any differences. I think that would be ok after I've put in my hours...

WaelJuly 26, 2014 10:46 PM

@Clive Robinson,

It would appear that Linus is a little upset with GCC-4.9.0 antics currently
He-hehe. He does seem pretty upset. But perhaps that's his style. Good thing he's verifying the output of the compiler. I doubt he does that for every part of it, and I think some bug prompted his close look at the output. Seems someone was blaming the Linux kernel for some bug, and it turns out it was a compiler thingy... I didn't follow what he was talking about because I don't like the AT&T notation. I prefer the Intel assembler notation...

BenniJuly 27, 2014 10:41 AM

The german green party and the party that is the former SED, which was responsible for the STASI in the former GDR, now have filed a request to the german government, saying that if the german government does not deliver them snowden on german ground where he can testify before the german parliament until the next hearing of the commission, the parties will sue the german government at germany's highest court, hoping that the judges there will force the government to deliver snowden to germany

Clive RobinsonJuly 27, 2014 11:04 AM

@ Jacob,

It brings a new definition to the expression "tanked".

However I know a way to enumerate his virtual network from afar and show it for what it is, just like many "honey nets". And as it's neither difficuby, nor needs zero days or other hard to come by stuff... It means that those with such "valuable" items can check a network first and if it looks like a virtual "honey net" not risk losing their investment on them, thus keeping the value for longer.

It also means that the value of virtual honey nets for capturing the latest zero days etc is more than somewhat diminished, it's actually less than zero against those that are cautious. This is because it leaks knowledge to the potential attacker about the intent of the network range holder. Once known such information can be "amplified" via various searches and quite a bit of intel can be built up. It's much like picking at a lose thread on a woollen jumper, once you have one little snag to pull out the whole thing unravels...

CzernoJuly 27, 2014 11:49 AM

I can't resist reposting this hilarious piece on the subject of formal software verification, without explicit authorization but with attribution :

From "Brendan" one of the resident experts on the "build your own pet OS" aka OSDev forum


For people who aren't familiar with the steps needed for formal verification of software; it goes like this:
start with a wrong design
get the same small team of developers to implement the wrong design twice - once as normal code and again as the "formal specification", and maximise the chance of the same developers making the same mistakes in both versions
use a buggy tool to "verify" that the bugs in the code actually do match the bugs in the formal specification
claim that the resulting code was formally verified to mislead people into thinking the resulting software actually works even though you've know it doesn't; because you've already spent 2 years working on something that should've taken 1 year and you've realised that debugging the code, the formal specification and the tool used to verify is 3 times as hard as just debugging the code

Nick PJuly 27, 2014 12:56 PM

@ Czerno

That's funny. It's also BS based on many reports I've read on its use. I particularly like how he left off that certain formally verified systems came out essentially flawless, where the "debugged" alternatives are still being debugged. The CompCert compiler, A1-class kernels, and VAMP/AAMP7G microprocessors come to mind. The CompCert compiler is nice for us as it was empirically tested by an independent group with fuzz testing and compared to other major compilers. They found a few bugs (in specification), but noted that of all compilers CompCert was the only one without any bugs in the middle end. So, the majority of it was flawless and there were no code-level flaws in the entire thing.

I'm sure Brendan achieves that with most of his software. ;)

Clive RobinsonJuly 27, 2014 1:15 PM

@ Nick P,

It might be funnier than you think...

When you say "BS" do you mean "BASIC source" by any chance?

Because if you hunt down the BCOS code you find this message,

    BCOS is a operating system written in basic. Under the GNU GPL v3

No, I kid you not...

Nick PJuly 27, 2014 2:35 PM

High Assurance News, July 2014, Compiler Verification

Alright it's time for another update on what people in high assurance industry are doing. This post focuses on high assurance compilation and program transformation. Anything that's clever or (esp) mathematically verified for correctness. There's been plenty of good work in 2013-2014 with many projects having practical value. If only they'd integrate this stuff. If only...

Verifying crypto - many questions and the beginning of an answer (2014) Schwabe

First one for crypto fans. Schwabe often works on high speed crypto and implementations of crypto on embedded chips. This paper implements a Bernstein-favored curve with verification at the assembly level and a lot of assembly code listings. People studying crypto implementation would probably enjoy his other publications on on his homepage, funnily named "CryptoJedi."

SPARK 2014 Formal program verification for all 2014 May AdaCore

SPARK 2014 is the latest release of the SPARK language. This one is tied to Ada 2012 that added contracts, among other things. SPARK 2014 can prove absence of more errors, is getting verified containers, can use more of the language, has even more success in industry (eg space software), and is still can be learned without a math degree.

Managing the network with Merlin 2013 Basu et al

Traditional Internet routers and gateways are getting placed with OpenFlow type designs that are more powerful and intelligent. There are different devices for endpoints, middle points, and so on. The problem is they're all managed differently. Merlin lets someone specify network policy in a high level language, it transforms them into local enforceable policies, and then does the enforcement. They use a theorem prover and Ocaml for assurance. Evaluation shows good results for even complex policies.

Formal verification of loop bound estimation for WCET analysis (2014) Blazy et al

This is great work with application in embedded development. Jack Ganssle was just discussing the pain of WCET analysis and I suggested a tool chain that builds it into the compilation phase. Imagine my surprise to find out my idea had already been built. They start with CompCert verified compiler, then integrate a WCET analysis into it. The WCET method is also verified for correctness. Their next step, just like I sent to Ganssle, is to make formal models of the hardware and its timing properties to tie into their tool.

Correct compilers for correct processors (2014) Krall and Lezuo

Awesome work that goes in a different direction from CompCert. They note that original verified compiler used Gurevich's abstract state machine method and there's good tools for them. Clive Robinson and I have pushed that model for secure systems design and verification, as well. They have a "synchronous parallel execution model" with ability "to express sequential computation as a single atomic step (...during a clock cycle)." As this is a lot like hardware circuits, it's already neat to know & useful in many ways. So, they build such models of instructions, pipelines and so on. They develop an interpreter, an interpreter that produces execution traces, and a source to source C++ compiler. Then, they analyze each compiler pass against those with different methods for different phases, such as symbolic execution or translation validation.

MIPS case study showed the specs/proofs are trivial compared to other methods: specification models for instructions, execution model, and state/memory helpers was 710 lines of code that took 2 days to write; pipeline models with instructions, forwarding and bubbling were 1,500 LOC for instructions, 400 LOC for each pipeline, and took a day. Instruction selection verification on almost 6,000 files of input took a total of 284.2 seconds. Wow.

A verified compiler for multithreaded PreScheme 1996 Farmer & Ramsdell

A classic work I just found. Mitre used to do a lot of good work in high assurance in defense contracts. The VLISP project rigorously verified an implementation of Scheme. Their method was a subset for system programming called PreScheme that compiled to native code, a verified compiler for it, a verified interpreter for the full language, and then a corresponding implementation for it I think in PreScheme. Mitre, being smart, build on a successful project by making it multithreaded, provably correct despite being multithreaded, and faster than original PreScheme. I always figured people wanting verified tools would be wise to leverage powerful tools that are already verified. And good luck finding something more powerful than LISP. ;)

A formally-verified C compiler with floating point 2013 Leroy et al.

Xavier Leroy's team delivers another round of ass-kicking assurance by adding verified floating point to their CompCert C compiler. They point out in paper that compilers like GCC are actually designed to make floating point fail if optimized. Theirs is design to make it succeed while still performing reasonably well. Some people might like that.

Note: I apparently didn't keep the link but one group also verified a SSA form for Coq. It's the most common middle end in compilers, yet also one of the hardest to verify. Now that its done we might see new optimizations. Which brings me to next two papers.

Verified compilation for shared-memory C 2014 Beringer et al.

One problem with optimizing compilers is that shared memory interactions can introduce bugs. This work extends CompCert with new specifications and proving techniques for handling these shared memory interactions. It's meant to be applied to situations such as buffer-based system calls, shared-memory concurrency, and separate compilation.

Incremental verification of compiler optimizations 2014 Fedyukovich et al

They're also worried about optimizations effect on safety. Their solution is incremental optimization where they do some transformations, then verify them against a fixed safety property. A side-goal is to reduce re-verification of the entire program for efficiency purposes. They find that they usually succeed at that goal. Integrates with LLVM.

Coq - the world's best macro assembler? (2014) Kennedy et al

I previously posted a paper on the benefits of using High Level Assembly. Well, I doubt it can get much more high level than programming assembler in a theorem prover lol. This uses a concrete model of x86 assembler, integration of concrete features with Coq's mathematical structures, macros that are Coq functions, correctness proofs for macros/assembler, generation of hex machine code from Coq assembler, and a verified regular expression engine (DFA compiler) to top it off.

They've got verified assembler covered in enough ways that they should probably get a reward for it or something. One of their lessons learned was that a side effect of trying to verify or model assembler was to write smaller and modular assembler code. This is similar to what other formal software verification projects have noted: just specifying and coding in a way that can be verified often produces more benefits than the verification itself.

Use of formal methods in embedded software
development: stakes, constraints and proposal (2014) Pires et al.

This paper's concern is validation and verification of safety-critical software for DO-178C type evaluations. Such evaluations require strong correspondence of requirements, high level design, implementation, and even object code. The high cost and strict requirements of evaluation mean that formal verification makes sense. This paper tries to make it easier for developers by developing a state machine model that uses a UML subset, automatically generates annotations for the ACSL/Frama-C prover, and is free/open as an Eclipse plugin (AGrUM).

Compiling information-flow security to minimal trusted computing bases (2014) Fournet and Planul

I haven't really read it as I'm working on something similar and want to maintain originality. Here's the abstract: "We develop a secure compiler for distributed information flows. To minimize trust assumptions, we rely on cryptographic protection, and we exploit hardware and software mechanisms available on modern architectures, such as virtualization, secure boots, trusted platform modules, and remote attestation. We present a security model for these mechanisms in an imperative language with dynamic code loading. We define program transformations to generate trusted virtual hosts and to run them on untrusted machines. We obtain confidentiality and integrity theorems under realistic assumptions, showing that the compiled distributed system is at least as secure as the source program."

The pitfalls of protocol design Attempting to write a formally verified PDF parser (2014) Bogk and Schopl

They show the benefit of applying formal verification to data formats and protocols. Their attempt at a parser found huge problems with PDF format including a denial of service attack on all existing PDF implementations with one file. Key contribution is a parser combinator via dependent types with proof of termination.

Efficient Java Code Generation of Security Protocols Specified in AnB/AnBx (2014) Modesti

Great work aiming to prevent implementation flaws like Heartbleed: "The implementation of security protocols is challenging and error-prone, as experience has proved that even widely used and heavily tested protocols like TLS and SSH need to be patched every year due to low-level implementation bugs. A model-driven development approach allows automatic generation of an application, from a simpler and abstract model that can be formally verified. In this work we present the AnBx compiler, a tool for automatic generation of Java code of security protocols specified in the popular Alice & Bob notation, suitable for agile prototyping. In contrast with the existing tools, the AnBx compiler uses a simpler specification language and computes the consistency checks that agents has to perform on reception of messages. This is an important feature for robust implementations. Moreover, the tool applies various optimization strategies to achieve efficiency both at compile time and at run time. A support library interfaces the Java Cryptographic Architecture allowing for easy customization of the application."

Note: software is here.

Formal Security Analysis with Interacting State Machines (2002) Oheimb and Lotz

I posted here years ago that Interacting State Machines was a good model for software and security verification. I just didn't see anyone working on it. It appears I just missed out on this paper that's still valuable. These authors let you define the machines in the graphical AutoFocus tool, they're checked for consistency, translated to Isabell/HOL prover, and checks semi-automatically performed there. They show usefulness by applying it to LKW model of Infineon SLE 66 smart card chip and Needham-Shroeder Public Key protocol.

I'm out of time so I'm just posting the links to the rest (mostly).

Formalizing and Verifying a Modern Build Language (2014) Christakis et al

"The paper defines the C LOUD M AKE language using an operational semantics,
but with a twist: the central operation exec is defined axiomatically, making it pluggable so that it can be replaced by calls to compilers, linkers, and other tools. The formalization and proofs of the central C LOUD M AKE algorithms are done entirely in D AFNY , the proof engine of which is an SMT-based program verifier."

The CleanJava Language for Functional Program Verification (2011) Cheon et al

A version of Java language designed specifically for use with the Cleanroom low-defect development methodology. I've pushed Cleanroom here in the past and I'm still a fan of it. Best recent work on it was using Python with it.

Validation of a System Design Framework with Formal RDF Techniques (2013) Dossis

Paper focused on the theme of program synthesis. Lot of stuff in it. Uses compiler-generators, RDF rules, logic programming, and XML validation of internal state. I haven't read the whole paper but I posted it just cuz it's different along with using web technology standards.

Note: His whole page is interesting.

WaelJuly 27, 2014 7:26 PM

@Nick P,

Great links, as always...
How do you find the time to read all this stuff?

Nick PJuly 27, 2014 8:30 PM

@ Clive Robinson

It might be funny to you BASIC haters, but makes sense to me. BASIC is a general purpose application language with dialects having native compilation, pointers, bitwise operators and inline assembler. FreeBASIC comes to mind. Why wouldn't a person be able to build an OS in it? That particular OS seems like a vaporware project, though, as it's Google code page is empty except title and email.

@ Wael

"How do you find the time to read all this stuff?"

I was off work most of yesterday. Took the whole day. My eyes were all glazed over by the end of it, to be honest. Only so many of us even doing research on this stuff. Even fewer bring it to people's attention. If I drop out of the game, there's a chance the results will never happen or get anywhere. Gotta do my part to solve these big problems is all.

BuckJuly 27, 2014 10:33 PM


Yes, yes, and if we are to learn anything from animal/human history, most definitely (and maybe even unfortunately), a resounding YES!

Why Has This Really Common Virus Only Just Been Discovered? (July 24, 2014)
Dutilh's team, led by Rob Edwards at San Diego State University, analysed 466 metagenomes that have been added to public databases and found crAssphage in three-quarters of them. It's there in stool samples from people in the USA, Europe and South Korea. It actually accounted for 1.7 percent of all the sequences that the team analysed--six times more than all the other known phages put together. You probably have it inside you right now.
Be sure to at least check out the linked summary of this related research as well:
Viruses in the gut protect from infection (May 20, 2013)
Barr and his colleagues, who are based at San Diego State University in California, show that animal mucus -- whether from humans, fish or corals -- is loaded with bacteria-killing viruses called phages. These protect their hosts from infection by destroying incoming bacteria. In return, the phages are exposed to a steady torrent of microbes in which to reproduce.

Nick PJuly 27, 2014 10:58 PM

@ Terry Cloth

That's hilarious. I always loved that one. That and Guttman's paper illustrate a basic rule: formal methods should be one of many tools applied to verifying software. The best tools, imho, are good software structure (eg modularity, simple constructions) and reviews for specific types of defects and general problems. Both Fagan Inspection and Cleanroom use this approach. Empirical studies showed they massively reduce defects without much of a training or cost burden. Formal verification with the right attributes on top of that adds even more assurance with medium (static/dynamic analysis) to high (proofs) cost increases. Although, I've always recommended it only be used industrially on problems it's been proven to be effective on and where the cost is justifiable. Compilers, OS kernels, and security protocols probably top my list.

Nick PJuly 27, 2014 11:30 PM

@ Clive

Looking back at your post I didn't realize the reason that you brought up BCOS was that it was in his signature. I thought you were just messing with me about BASIC again. My bad. ;)

Yeah, it *is* funny that the guy bashing a verification method as a waste of effort has an ongoing project to code a simple OS in the easiest language on Earth and... hasn't delivered crap per the site hosting it. Even the toy projects by formal methods community currently have more design, code, and documentation than his own work.

Perhaps he should stop insulting them and ask them for insight on how they got past the 0 lines of code mark, eh? :O

AutolykosJuly 28, 2014 2:59 AM

Forgive me if it was posted already (wasn't here for a while), but here's a nice article on using weaknesses in the XKeyscore design to foul up the NSA's databases (I especially like injecting characters into your "addresses" that might later screw with SQL or HTML parsers):

Those ones might be fixed by now, but let's be creative. The filter lists have leaked, after all.

Clive RobinsonJuly 28, 2014 4:10 AM

@ Nick P,

With regards the Kennedy Coq paper and the comment,

    One of their lessons learned was that a side effect of trying to verify or model assembler was to write smaller and modular assembler code.

It's the way you manage complexity and a lesson that every one involved in engineering should learn.

If you also add strongly mediated interfaces, you get other benifits which you can take forward into sensible forms of issolation (which is what EmSec design has been all about for some years).

With regards isolation and common memory, there are three mechanisms currently, issolated memory, shared memory using crypto for issolation and shared memory using MMUs etc for issolation. Obviously the first is the fastest and simplest, the second the slowest by a short margin and most complex. The MMU solution has it's own issues, but unlike the other two can precisely tailor memory usage to minimize rouge software issues (be they bug or malware).

So a three step high level implementation over view might be,

1, Formally verify the specification.
2, Minimise complexity of units.
3, Maximise issolation of units.

Which puts a large load on strongly mediated interfaces between units. Which should go right down into the hardware stack below the CPU, Memory and IO interface levels at the "bus" level.

If I remember correctly it was an area Symour Cray did some work in, of which only the switching side is the bit most people remember, not how it could be a basic security mechanism of considerable strength.

Z.Lozinski .July 28, 2014 4:24 AM


"strongly mediated interfaces .."

Are you referring to Seymour Cray's design of the Peripheral Processors in the CDC 6600 and CDC 7600 (using completely different processors for operating system and main computer) or to something else he did?


Clive RobinsonJuly 28, 2014 5:00 AM

@ Buck,

As you might know there have been effectivly no knew antibiotics developed in the last quater century, just variations on existing ones.

Which gives rise to a significant problem, we ie humans are very dependent on antibiotics for not only our own health, but also that of the livestock we use as one of our food sources. This dual use has caused a problem in that the bugs are becoming immune to the effects of the antibiotics.

Now a little bit of historical research will show you that due to political issues (mainly in the US) the old Communist block did not have access to antibiotics, and research in that area was effectivly out of reach to them. So they turned to a different methods of bacterial control, one of which is phages, which might be what we will all have to be using within twenty years. Unfortunatly there is little or no money to be made from the work so the West's Big Pharma companies have zero interest in going down that path which will be very much to our detriment (and theirs in the long term).

Speaking of "gut flora" and unknown we beasties, providing you are neither eating or about to eat, you might want to look up a newish therapy which involves taking samples of the lower colon contents of healthy individuals and transplanting it to the GI track of individuals with various gut dissorders. Called "F Transplant" the mechanics of the process are enough to make most people feal quite queasy if not ill ;-)

Clive RobinsonJuly 28, 2014 5:02 AM

@ Buck,

As you might know there have been effectivly no knew antibiotics developed in the last quater century, just variations on existing ones.

Which gives rise to a significant problem, we ie humans are very dependent on antibiotics for not only our own health, but also that of the livestock we use as one of our food sources. This dual use has caused a problem in that the bugs are becoming immune to the effects of the antibiotics.

Now a little bit of historical research will show you that due to political issues (mainly in the US) the old Communist block did not have access to antibiotics, and research in that area was effectivly out of reach to them. So they turned to a different methods of bacterial control, one of which is phages, which might be what we will all have to be using within twenty years. Unfortunatly there is little or no money to be made from the work so the West's Big Pharma companies have zero interest in going down that path which will be very much to our detriment (and theirs in the long term).

Speaking of "gut flora" and unknown we beasties, providing you are neither eating or about to eat, you might want to look up a newish therapy which involves taking samples of the lower colon contents of healthy individuals and transplanting it to the GI track of individuals with various gut dissorders. Called "Fecal Transplant" the mechanics of the process are enough to make most people feal quite queasy if not ill ;-)

But intrepid as ever there are DIY instructions on the internet,

Clive RobinsonJuly 28, 2014 7:22 AM

@ Wesley Parish,

With regards the open sourcing of seL4.

If this from their "about" page

    NICTA and GDC4S are releasing seL4 as open source in the hope that this will help everyone to build more dependable (safe, secure, reliable) computer systems.

is anything to go by, you have to wonder how much the Ed Snowden revelations had on making it happen...

That said secure OSs are not known as money spinners, even when there are requirements in place for their use. Thus the primary business decision could be one of "if we open it up, adoption would be higher and thus the demand for apps and suppprt, on which we can make money".

Nick PJuly 28, 2014 10:51 AM

@ Wesley

Nice! Unfortunate that it's GPL as a BSD license would be ideal for adoption with LGPL next best thing. I think they're wanting it to grow like Linux, though. In any case, it's clear to me that their main motivation is that they don't see any money in it. The thing costs millions of dollars to develop, yet doesn't have enough features to sell for a few grand. Makes more sense to open source it and then make money on services/products that leverage it.

Joe KJuly 28, 2014 12:47 PM

@ Clive,

Speaking of "gut flora" and unknown we beasties, providing you are neither eating or about to eat, you might want to look up a newish therapy which involves taking samples of the lower colon contents of healthy individuals and transplanting it to the GI track of individuals with various gut dissorders. Called "Fecal Transplant" the mechanics of the process are enough to make most people feal quite queasy if not ill ;-)

But intrepid as ever there are DIY instructions on the internet,

Pfft, instructions. Who needs 'em?

BenniJuly 28, 2014 7:54 PM

Ever forgotten your password for some website?

Here you can ask, according to washington post:

"As it happens, the NSA files we examined included 1,152 “minimized U.S. passwords,” meaning passwords to American e-mail and chat accounts intercepted from U.S. data links. Don’t expect tech support from Langley, but the CIA does have access to that raw traffic."

"There were 22,000 electronic files in the data set we analyzed, containing content intercepted by the NSA between 2009 and 2012. They came from a repository hosted at the NSA’s Kunia regional facility in Hawaii, which was shared by a group of analysts who specialize in Southeast Asian threats and targets.

That Hawaii database was, in essence, curated by members of the group. They drew on a much larger store of “raw,” or unprocessed, content hosted at NSA headquarters and imported selections from it into templates for evaluated material."

"Because our sample had been hand-selected by analysts for the Hawaii database, there was a lot less irrelevant content and “incidentally collected” U.S. communications than an auditor would find in the central PINWALE database from which it was drawn."

Wesley ParishJuly 28, 2014 10:47 PM

@Clive Robinson

Interestingly, one of the first people to criticise these kind of “recommender systems” for their unintended effect on society was Patti Maes who had invented RINGO. She said that the inevitable effect is to narrow and simplify your experience - leading people to get stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of themselves.

Sounds like Prisoner. Looks like Prisoner was prescient, almost P_K_Dickian.

Nick PJuly 28, 2014 11:49 PM

For those interesting in homebrew fabs I just found this interesting comment on a forum:

" In college, my semiconductor class made homebrew-style MOSFETs. We used a camera to take a photo of a "mask" which was a paper covered in sharpie that we hung across the room. So we had a paper, we drew with black sharpie on it and then hung it about 40 feet away and took a photo of it using a film-based camera, then cut out the negative and that became the mask. Then we used an old spin art spinner and a ketchup bottle to spray on photo resist (yes, something like this), spun it thin, developed it with a UV bulb, etched off the photo resist, grew oxide in a kiln that had an oxygen canister, and we did a boron implant using the same method but a boron tank. We had a mechanical stopwatch to figure out the dopant density. Then we etched and sharpie'd and repeated. As pointed out, there were some nasty chemicals involved - hydroflouric acid being the worst but there were some others that needed access to the chemistry labs fume hood.

In the end we did manufacture something like 60micron FETs on a ~3" wafer to make an integrated circuit. Our yield was appalling - as I recall about 1 in 2 of my FETs worked. But we had enough redundancy that one of my circuits mostly worked ok.

You could absolutely do it at home - nothing we did required a university's lab... but you'd have to be pretty driven to buy everything. The method we used could be done with a budget under $1k. The biggest source of yield loss was the screwy kiln system we had... for $10k you could do better. But I'm not sure how much better... but an airtight system would help a lot and a system to measure boron levels and some equipment to measure the oxide thickness (we estimated it with math)... you could shrink the whole thing down and I would think sub-10 micron would be possible with the film method - though you'd probably need a medium format camera to get the resolution up.... Still $10k would be a heck of a budget for the McGuyver-like system we had going."

Clive you think his claim is legit? If so, taking making masks with sharpies, cameras, and cheap chemicals is pretty neat. Makes me wonder what odds are of applying an improved version of that methodology to a useful CPU. Or even useful bitslice or TTL chips that other stuff can be built on.

WaelJuly 29, 2014 1:11 AM

@Nick P,

I know you asked Clive Robinson, but he's probably asleep now...

For those interesting in homebrew fabs...
Give me a break, man :) Companies spend billions on Fabs!
Where did I put that Bovine excrement meter?

Clive RobinsonJuly 29, 2014 2:17 AM

@ Nick P, Wael,

Ask yourself two questions,

1, Do the individual bits stack up?
2, Hisroricaly how did the inventors do it?

Then reasses your view point. Bear in mind QC / yield is not the primary objective just to get something working as an experiment.

The photography would need to use black and white film stock with very fine grained particles, of the sort used for microfiche and microdots so is available (still). How you draw up the mask is considerably less important than how you get the high contrast. It also needs to be done in negative for some systems to avoid doing an extra step. Although not having done it to the reduction level they have it's how I've made experimental very fine trace PCBs for microwave circuits using some surface mount components. Not because I couldn't send it out to be photo plotted and manufactured, but because the turn around time was way to expensive back then compared to an hour or so with the homebrew system I had to hand anyway.

Further you don't need to have your film mask be the required size unless you are doing contact prints a good quality enlarger system will do the job with an optional lens change. Putting a custom jig on the bed to hold the target will help a lot in aligning the masks for the repeated steps.

As for getting it down to the size they say I'm some what doubtfull, and I can not say if the kiln lashup would work (but check how original inventors etc did it).

But let's assume it is posible and you could get the QC issues to work in your favour... look up what sort of performance you would get with the resulting parts... you might not be to impressed.

Clive RobinsonJuly 29, 2014 2:50 AM

@ Nick P, Wael,

Oh I forgot to mention I have made my own semiconductors at home when I was a lot lot younger than I am today.

When I was young I made my own "point contact" or "cat's whisker" diodes by polishing lumps of "rock" to make a diode detector radio. This was in part because my maternal grandfather was one of the first licenced home radio experimenters (hams) and in part due to a colleague of my father having been a Colditz escaper and telling me about their home made radio crystals.

Cats wiskers are increadably unreliable and having talked to a friend of my father's service days who was then a senior developer at the GPO, I looked up how to make copper oxide rectifiers, and this is something any ten year old can do at home with a little adult supervision and a good library or these days internet connection.

Stuck in the bottom of a filing cabinate in my dead tree cave I have US pattent 1640335 from 1927 titled "Unidirectional Current Carrying Device". Which as far as I can tell is the first USPO entry for a cuprous oxide diode. It gives you sufficient information to make devices that work sufficiently well in old style "crystal sets"

Also if you look around commercial cuprous oxide diodes were still in use in telephone receivers being made in the late 60s and 70s due to their higher reliability...

If you want me to reminisce further and tell you how to scrub, heat and otherwise get the cuprous oxide to grow and be made reliable then let me know ;-)

WaelJuly 29, 2014 3:02 AM

@Clive Robinson, @Nick P,

Ask yourself two questions...
I asked myself more questions:
  • Do these guys know what a "clean room" means? They probably think it means vacuum the room.
  • Do they know that in clean rooms the workers are not allowed to wear a gold ring, for instance? Gold has some effects;)
Plus many more questions... They probably can build a junction transistor or a FET or two. I highly doubt they can build the sort of chip that would run an operating system! Cache, Memory, timings, dopant concentration, type, and time of exposure! This is a science, not a photography class... then how would they develop a single transistor that has a frequency response in the GHz range? This technology requires precise calculations and technology -- not something you can do in your garage. When 3-d printers are more advanced, maybe someone can print his or her own chip.

BTW, I also built my own micro strip lines on PC boards long time ago, but they were used as an antenna and for impedance matching -- not for a semiconductor device. Even for these relatively simple "home built" devices, I had to use a smith chart, and a lot of calculations had to be performed.

what sort of performance you would get with the resulting parts... you might not be to impressed.
Probably a transistor or two running in the 10KHz range, and with horrible characteristics, power consumption, life, heat dissipation, etc... And that ignores the outside packaging and protective casing, the metal to silicon wiring, etc...

@Clive Robinson: I guess you were awake, did not realize it was about 7:00AM your time! And I am sleepy at 1:00AM. Found out the reason! No caffene for me after 12:00PM...

Gerard van VoorenJuly 29, 2014 10:04 AM

About the formal verification of seL4. I have 4 questions about it:

1) Did they only verify the basic kernel or also the filesystems/servers?

2) Would it be easier to have used Ada/Spark for verification instead of C?

3) How usable is seL4? What about userland etc, to make it a complete OS? There is for instance another microkernel OS with NetBSD userland, called Minix3 (not verified).

4) It is being compiled with GCC. How about a formal verification of GCC? ;-)

DBJuly 29, 2014 12:02 PM

Along the same lines of what I recently posted in the recent Tor thread about my feelings on government-sponsored FUD and psychological warfare against the populace at large... I also wonder if the recent stories about Showden and deals with the US government aren't also the US government trying to pressure Snowden into accepting a bad deal, which implies they're actually offering one behind the scenes...

For example: all the "the longer Snowden waits, the less the US government needs to make a deal with him" stories like here, here, and here. And the "German minister says Snowden should return to the US" stories like here, here, and here coming out right afterward...

One of the things I learned actually living under a real (open) dictatorship for a few years, was that you had to "read between the lines" of news stories... if something came out against something or someone, you had to think back two steps and think about what might have prompted such a response from The Regime... then you knew the real news. That's what I'm proposing we do more of here in the USA and other supposedly "free" societies that aren't any longer.

So, if I'm reading this correctly, and the US government has a deal on the table for Snowden, and they're trying to use psych warfare against him to pressure him into taking it, then he should NOT take it. The only reason to use such tactics is if they see something coming down the pipe that will put them at a disadvantage... maybe advanced notice of what the next big leak will be, or something like a fear that the Leahy bill will open up floodgates of reform or who knows....

sena kavoteJuly 29, 2014 12:26 PM

RE: TOR bridges and other unencrypted data with mass surveillance

Maybe tor bridge info and other things that may not always be possible to encrypt, should be sent in picture form converted from text with the same programs that make visual CAPTCHAs? Width, height and some other parameters should be more random than with CAPTCHAs. One option could be to use the most popular open source 3d modeler, Blender, to convert text to 3d pictures in an automatic command line mode with a script that includes some randomization. I m not sure that it is currently possible with existing command line parameters and script formats, but if it is not, it would need only small modifications to Blender, and then the whole script would be shorter than this message.

But it seems to me that ability to use tor and especially tor bridges means ability to use GPG and public keys. If using a public computer without access to usb, typing public keys would be ordeal and could take too much time. Even using a symmetric key would help if the mass surveillance has buffer shorter than 24 hours and reply is sent after 24 hours.

RE: Making processors / chips

Even with worst possible backdoors in efficient modern hardware, it would usually be better to have slow emulations or simulations of honest hardware than weird hardware 40 years behind, cooked by small groups. In theory, a backdoor could be so elaborate that it recognizes simulations and subverts even them, but it would not be practical. Only if attacker can input raw unencrypted bits to a backdoored system, layer of emulation is not sufficient. So, weird self-cooked / small-group-cooked hardware might have use in slow receivers for converting analog signal to an encrypted stream of bits. The encryption here can be really bad, because a backdoor can't do much crypto-breaking.

Instead of film photography methods, I think it is better to use blu-ray laser and make the process more like burning a CD rather than using a film camera, at least if production numbers are low enough.

We need a mid-option between a custom chip and FPGA: Chip that has all components ready, but wiring is either blocked everywhere or open everywhere. Then a very precise and narrow electron beam opens or blocks wires to implement a specific chip design. Ion beam might be better... Particle beams are much much cheaper than chip factories, at a given precision. Not even all packaging has to be removed for the logic writing and small dust won't prevent penetration of the particles, maybe not even bacteria.

RE: Finding vulnerabilities in software

Could this be something that NSA etc. has thrown supercomputers at, or something to donate spare computing power by volunteers:

Take jpeg format decoders for example. (This may or may not be a good example.) Make random alterations to jpeg picture files, and if the decoder gives an error message or draws an altered picture, it is ok. If the decoder crashes, there is a bug, and the decoding of that altered file gets replicated and analyzed. Even though this is very inefficient compared to formal methods / static analysis, it seems that at least now this is only practical option for most software projects, because no understanding of high level mathematics is required. It is like difference between installing Ubuntu Linux and openBSD.

Please use clear headlines so scrolling through these comment sections and selecting topics is easier. Use for example html tags strong+b.

For example, programmers may read all but others want only political and human engineering points of view.

DBJuly 29, 2014 2:29 PM

RE: People wanting all other commenters to comment using a certain format

Probably not going to happen... but I welcome you to try :)

Nick PJuly 29, 2014 2:31 PM

@ Wael

" I highly doubt they can build the sort of chip that would run an operating system! Cache, Memory, timings, dopant concentration, type, and time of exposure! This is a science, not a photography class..."

You're reading too much into this. He said he made "an integrated circuit" out of "transistors" he built this way and claimed it was around 60 micron results. A circuit that was probably highly simple out of some transistors using an unconventional method. That doesn't sound as far fetched as real stuff I've found in old chip design. And it actually *is* photography, err, photolithography.

The last few I investigated were pretty nice: the always incredible Jeri Ellisworth built a millimeter home fab; this paper on DIY microfabrication for 15um features on copper; this project that's doing tens of micrometers on copper as well. So, seeing a guy who was highly regarded on his forum claim his EE class built some simple circuits using a cheap method was at least worth a question and a few comments on a blog.

@ Clive, Wael

Btw, did you know you can get silicon wafers on eBay? It's where Jeri gets hers. I also stumbled upon some in the past that were Alpha processors. Just the silicon wafer of them. There's also web sites that are middlemen for manufacturers of various things that give the item, the volume, and the price. A lot of stuff one might use for custom circuits is available between them and eBay. Of course, one of my recommendations post-Snowden was to just pull good processors out of old computers and build them into new boards. Maybe put a I/O processor and MMU in front of them to help protect them from attacks. An IOMMU chip would be *much* easier to design than a processor and with many potential fabs, too.

@ AlanS

That post on microkernels was actually inspired by my criticism of her project which referenced seL4. Someone quoted a discussion between Clive and I about problems from hardware on up in Qubes that she cut down in an insulting way. So, I showed up to hit her back with specific issues. She just got mad and started saying all kinds of nonsense showing how little she understood about building secure systems. I ended the argument by showing it, detail by detail. It was funny.

A while after that, she vented by writing a blog post that cut down everything I mentioned (without naming me) and then another to cut down seL4 and formal verification in general. When evaluating reliability of information, it's important to know where, who, and why. The recurring pattern with her I've seen in many blog posts and comments is she cuts down anything different from their work with red herrings, personal attacks, or even criticisms that apply equally to her own work (eg firmware issues). She also rarely addresses people's points. Gernot Heiser's writings on the subject, including his comments on her blog, are much less biased and paint an accurate portrayal of formal verification's value.

@ Gerard van Vooren

1. They just verified the kernel. This was common even for A1 or EAL6-7 systems. The kernel is the most important part, so it gets the most verification. The other components can be verified to whatever degree people want. Microsoft's Verve OS verified kernel, drivers, and assembler I believe.

2. It might have been. They focused on C because it's what most system software is written in and verifying C code was a major research challenge. They were the first to verify a kernel's C code against a formal specification of design and security. And it was cheaper than old A1 systems so that's nice side benefit. Btw, look up the Muen separation kernel as it's being written and analyzed in SPARK Ada.

3. It's targetted for embedded use. The other thing they have is OKL4 kernel, user-mode Linux, and CAMKES for automating IPC between partitions. That's seen a lot of use in smartphones and Dresden uses a similar architecture for desktops. The seL4/OKL4.Verified offering has a Linux layer, I believe. So, with work, you can do quite a lot with it but with increasing security risk. Currently, though, it's just suitable for embedded stuff.

4. They already did a verification of most of its compilation with a custom method. I'd like to see it run through CompCert or the recent one I posted that does MIPS.

@ sena kavote

The use of simulation is an interesting idea that we discussed here. It came up in several forms: different redundant chips checking each other; chips designed to emulate chips; interpreters/VM's that contain most or all of untrusted software; automated, randomizing synthesis of hardware/software designs. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but there's some for you to look into. I've used one or more of these methods. Performance was *horrible* except on Alpha's where PALcode let it merely be *bad*. ;) Of course, my methods were about verified security rather than performance so I didn't make any clever optimizations that risked breaking security. There could be clever optimizations that improve stuff, esp if we use chips that aren't Von Neumann.

That's why I started looking into FPGA's, No Instruction Set Computing, and putting programmable microcode engines in front of processors like SPARK. These allow customized behavior and security features per chip. They're still faster than pure software emulation and allows one to avoid excess memory accesses or register spills that caused the bad performance I mentioned.

"We need a mid-option between a custom chip and FPGA: Chip that has all components ready, but wiring is either blocked everywhere or open everywhere."

Name.withheld showed us exactly that: Structured ASIC's. Altera even had a way to automated a lot of FPGA to S-ASIC conversion. Bad news is they failed in the marketplace and most of these offerings are being cancelled. The predecessor to this, which used to be successful in market, was the gate array ASIC described here.

"Take jpeg format decoders for example. (This may or may not be a good example.) Make random alterations to jpeg picture files, and if the decoder gives an error message or draws an altered picture, it is ok."

It's funny you say that because it was the method a famous bug hunter used. Actually, his was simpler: he just changed one bit at a time and recorded the crashes. Then, he used manual methods to look for vulnerabilities in the crashes. There was also the even more clever method of automatically creating vulnerabilities from patches by leveraging the fact that patches tell you where the vulnerabilities are.

The tech works both ways, though. Most research in such tech is on finding bugs for improving quality or security. I've posted proposals here of designing languages that are easy to verify, then running them automatically through many tools in parallel. Each tool is designed to do one or a few things very well. Design keeps getting tweaked until it passes all of them. Design-by-contract is also used to build assumptions and certain policies into the code. The result could be, in theory, automated on cheap build system hardware. Far as timing, I recall DEC's VMS team coded for a week, let builds/tests run all weekend, fixed as many flaws as possible next week, and repeat. My proposed system could run basic checks every integration, with thorough checks run overnight and developers getting a report in the morning. It can also reduce cost/power by using a cluster of ARM/MIPS boards.

WaelJuly 29, 2014 4:27 PM

@Nick P,

You're reading too much into this.
I apparently did so. I took it in the context of building your own CPU as a measure of anti-subversion choice. Read the paper and the link to Jeri's work. Commendable, fascinating and gives me some ideas in an area I haven't thought about for many years. Thanks again...

Iain MoffatJuly 29, 2014 4:40 PM

@Nick, Wael: My university electronics department had small fabs rather like Jeri Ellsworth's for both monolithic (silicon) and hybrid (materials deposited on an insulating substrate and etched) microcircuits. It was certainly possible to do MSI level functions with equipment that mostly belonged in chemistry labs or photographic darkrooms back then around 1980. I remember being shown it but I never got involved in using it and they gave up around 1985 as commercial IC processes got finer geometries and better performance (at a cost). I think they were in the low tens of microns resolution range. So it is do-able if you can source the interesting and noxious chemicals required. There is actually a trade-off between miniaturisation and process complexity - hybrid technology as used in IBM S/360 is less dense (being based on unpackaged transistors and screen printed or etched circuits) but avoids the complex chemistry of monolithic circuits on silicon. I wonder if 3D printing could be adapted to it ?

@Sena Kavote: Electron beam writing of the top level metal mask for low volume gate array ASICs was actually done in the late 1980s by a company called European Silicon Structures (ES2) see: . In my electronics days I actually designed a device intended to be made by them, but in the end it didn't happen. They were overtaken by large FPGAs (Xilinx and Atmel) for small volumes and lacked a migration path to large volume photolithographic processes, and eventually bought out by Atmel.

I would actually suggest that there is a generation of field programmable logic sufficiently complex to build an IOMMU around a non-trivial commercial processor but lacking the complexity (and security doubts) of modern cell based FPGAs with JTAG - these are the PALs and GALs see: and .

You could actually build a custom CPU with them if desired although it would probably be at best 386 powered but I do believe that the combination of a relatively simple traditional microprocessor and an IOMMU to enforce memory management policies is the only way an individual or small team can produce a machine with significantly better performance than current off the shelf designs and reasonable performance. That also allows use of existing tool chains to bootstrap the project.

Nick PJuly 29, 2014 5:43 PM

@ Iain

re ESS

Man, you're AWESOME! Thank you for that link to ESS. Previously, we were looking at tens of millions of dollars of operation cost even if we got a fab for free, with masks in hundred thousand to millions of dollars range. The numbers for ESS, which does *custom* and *small* runs, were as follows:

$2,000 per mask. $40,000 for 1,000 chips. $7 mil annual revenue. $4 mil for electron beam machine.

If the revenue was profitable revenue, then this kind of fab is in reach of funding without a ton of money. And remember that I identified that the masks were the critical component to secure. Even doubling the cost of these masks they're still quite cheap.

There's almost no information on them online or more than I want to try to Google. However, my Google-fu did lead me to this paper that built a 120 MIPS dataflow processor on "a single chip ASIC... European Silicon Structures 0.7 micron CMOS." That suggests the higher end of what their tech can produce. Most of what I found was on 1.5-2 micron process with transistor counts over 100,000 and speed in 10-20Mhz range. These included a pattern recognition chip and neural network architecture chip. So, plenty can be done with such a chip at apparently low cost.

And we got the names of the people and companies involved if a future project building on such tech wants to track them down for I.P., talent, etc.

re PALs and GALs

Interesting. Thanks for the information and it's neat to see they're still available. Like DSP's, I'll add that it's another thing not likely to be subverted due to how they've been used. Also hopefully practical as a number of machines, corporate and homebrew, were built out of TTL's that the PAL's were meant to replace.

@ Wael

I could see how you'd think that looking back at it. That context is kind of accurate as I was thinking of it as baby steps toward something that can build a CPU. Keep in mind, though, that RISC processors were built in 30,000 transistors. And Intel's i432 APX "mainframe on a chip" was a few hundred thousand transistors. So, whatever technology is used doesn't have to cram millions of transistors at a GHz to be useful for critical security machines. It's more like a few hundred thousand transistors at MHz, maybe with untrusted support chips connected to handle standard devices. (eg my I/O offloading strategy)

WaelJuly 29, 2014 5:50 PM

@Iain Moffat, @Nick P,

My exposure to solid state physics and devices was more on the theoretical part through texts like: "Solid State Electronic Devices, by Ben G. Streetman" and a series of books "Advanced Semiconductor Fundmentals, by Robert F. Pierret"

I wonder if 3D printing could be adapted to it ?
Someday printers will allow us to "print" our own designed chips and systems on chips (SoC). This is not too far fetched.

While on the subject of books, I highly recommend this one. You'll learn a lot from it -- I learned so much from this book that I didn't learn from more advanced courses, trust me ;)
"Electronic Principles, by Albert Paul Malvino" -- This is really one of the best introductory books I have read on the subject. The author was a technician and an engineer at the start. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

Five years ago, I thought I knew everything about electronics. After all, I had received my Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University, worked at Hewlett-Packard for many years, been a technician for nine years and an engineer for twenty-four years. Then, I discovered what electronics really is. It is not a discipline with complex formulas, big words, and hard analysis. It is not a rigid science with only one right answer to every problem or only one method or formula that can be used to solve the problem"
If you buy this book and it does not deliver what I said, I'll freakin' reimburse you.

WaelJuly 29, 2014 5:54 PM

@Nick P,

It's more like a few hundred thousand transistors at MHz
Tough proposition! This essentially means that everyone needs to build their own chip. Gotta find a different method. The 3D printer sounds plausible :) Buy the material, make a design or use an open sourced design (with a SHA256 digest -- lol), and then print it on the "material". You can basically "print" your own custom designed device! That would rock...

Wesley ParishJuly 29, 2014 7:00 PM

@sena kavote

Electron beam devices are - or were - relatively cheap. When I worked for a computer recycling firm in the early 2000s, we used to destroy them on a regular basis (Quite a lot of retired dumb terminals). The iMac I often use contains a working electron beam device. So does my (obsolete) TV, which I don't use very often.

The only problem I see with such electron beam devices, is they are not very precise, and they are quite liberal with their electron beam density. But that could be worked on. (In theory you could combine two or more CRTs into one electron beam device, with a recycled PC CRT for the precise work, and a recycled TV CRT for more general work. But making the new (openible and resealable) vacuum chamber out of the high-density glass would take a lot of work and might be the most expensive part of it.)

Iain MoffatJuly 29, 2014 7:04 PM

@Nick: ES2 got bought out by Atmel in 1995 I believe. The problem they had with processes at around 0.7uM is that Xilinx and ATMEL FPGAs could match their complexity with zero lead time by the mid 90s, but the e-Beam process wrote one chip at a time so was slow for large volumes. I dont think they are still around in the form I knew :( The chip I worked on actually got retargeted on a traditional 2 layer metal masked process from another vendor because the volumes forecast were too much for ES2 which kept me in work for another year or so ;)

The old ES2 Rousset Fab in France now does military ASICs for Atmel in a 0.18uM standard cell process according to the Atmel web site - it is a 6 layer metal process so not e-Beam I think.

Other companies still doing e-Beam single mask ASICs are easic in California and Southampton University here in the UK and but I have no practical experience of them.



Nick PJuly 29, 2014 7:57 PM

Dataflow processors for networking devices

I previously posted an idea of having a pipeline of simple RISC processors for the network stack (incl VPN) with each one performing a specific function. It had optional hardware accelerators for some functions. The recent discussion reminded me of dataflow architecture and made me think it might be ideal for this. So, as usual, I search to see if there are papers or products that did it already. Seems that network computing has been doing dataflow for a while now. Marvell stands out:

Theirs might be way better than mine. They even argue that with a RISC vs "PISC" comparison. It's 400+ units, several operations per instruction, many parallel instructions per clock cycle, linear design, and wire speed. Seems like an excellent design for what it's intended for. I think my RISC or dedicated hardware approach still has merit for things that can't be done so linearly. Yet, I'd default on this if I was designing a custom networking chip so long as it was affordable and could integrate into my overall design.

The Mill is another novel design I found while doing this research:

Nick PJuly 29, 2014 8:25 PM

Last one for the night. They combine multi-core Intel chips, dataflow engines, plenty of memory, a smart compiler, and advanced power management to achieve incredible performance per watt. The most interesting thing is the picture of the data flow graph they show. It shows how data actually moves through the machine in all potential paths. I bet covert channel analysis for these things will be an interesting sub-field in the future.

AlanSJuly 29, 2014 8:45 PM

@Nick P

Quite the lovefest you had going on there.

Attitude aside, I sort of like Qubes. I don't have the technical background to get into a deep discussion of the pros and cons of various 'secure' OSes but Qubes has the advantage, for me, that I can download and use it. I'll look out for Gernot Heiser's comments. Thanks.

BuckJuly 29, 2014 8:57 PM

@Clive re: "Fecal Transplants"

Yes, indeed! I have certainly been following the cutting edge developments in some of these aspects of the health-sciences with great interest... ;-)
There are more than a few quite promising developments out there - plenty of them with a real potential for helping a lot of people! :-D
Have you heard about this story (or similar stories)...?

For the Good of the Gut: Can Parasitic Worms Treat Autoimmune Diseases? (December 1, 2010)
In 2004 the man swallowed a vial of salty liquid brimming with 500 human whipworm eggs, which he obtained from a parasitologist in Thailand. Three months later, he slurped down another 1,000 eggs. The larvae hatched and matured within his gastrointestinal tract, burying their heads in the intestinal wall. By mid-2005, he was virtually symptom free and required no medical treatment for his colitis, except occasional anti-inflammatory drugs to suppress flare-ups. The nearly complete dismissal of colitis symptoms is especially striking because human whipworm infection can itself cause digestive problems, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and, in extreme cases, rectal prolapse. Severe infections can also cause anemia and stunt the growth of children.
Though, while I think profiteering on the infirm is a sickening practice; I see no reason why the medical establishment could not make more than a million or two in pure-profit monthly revenues on weekly recurring bacteriophage treatments... In actuality, I believe there's no reason to think that these human-engineered creations haven't already been tested on target populations covertly deemed undesirables or overtly declared 'at risk'.

BuckJuly 29, 2014 9:30 PM

@Iain Moffat

I just had a sudden strange sense that your 'cover' is about to be blown... *shudders*

Nick PJuly 29, 2014 11:04 PM

@ AlanS

"Quite the lovefest you had going on there."

You know me: diplomacy isn't one of my strong points. That's true for her too. So we just butt heads harder due to our personas and conversation styles I figure. I don't have a grudge: I just wanted the real motivation for that post to be known.

Re QubesOS

That's certainly an advantage. Of course, three I mentioned were already usable as foundations with one having a trusted path and rapid-fire user-mode Linux VMs. So my claim wasn't that Xen couldn't build a usable system: it was that it had Linux in its TCB (Dom0) and low TCB foundation would've been a better choice.

QubesOS proved to be plenty usable. I even dropped a compliment to that effect on their blog. It's also an improvement in security over some browser VM methods. I give credit where it's due.

Re Heiser

Yeah he's great. I'm on mobile right now so I cant give you the paper. The seL4 FAQ actually covers things in pretty honest detail, esp proof assumptions. If you're interested, Ill post a small paper release in near future with Heiser and others on accomplishments/capabilities of formal verification in industry.

Nick PJuly 30, 2014 12:02 AM

@ Buck

He's already on *this* blog. He's been in their collection system. So long as he doesn't post classified info or build anything he should be fine far as further targeting goes.

Clive RobinsonJuly 30, 2014 2:19 AM

@ Buck, Nick P and of course Iain...

You could ask where his French radio truck is going to be this summer...

Clive RobinsonJuly 30, 2014 2:35 AM

@ Buck,

Whip worm if I remember correctly is also called thread worm, and was a fairly well known infestation back when I was a child.

Apparently the "whip" name comes about from part of it's life cycle... which is to crawl out of your bottom during the night and creat rampant itching, it lifts it's tail up in the air looking like a riding crop or whip, waiting for you to scratch (or in animals lick) them off as part of trying to stop the itching. They are then back in the food cycle...

Apparently the reason they were common was way back then school food hygiene was not what it could be nor was meat inspection what it now is.

Drs were not overly worried about it at the time because it was usually fairly quickly caught, and fairly easily eradicated.

However in children who tend to end up with more hand to mouth contact with their peers it was assumed to be infectious just like other child hood maladies including nits (hair lice) and the usuall mumps, chicken pox, measels, eye infections etc.

Which begs the question as to if the treatment has left the man as a vector for whip worm...

ThothJuly 30, 2014 4:02 AM

Pot calls the kettle black part 2:

Blackberry accused Blackphone as being simply commercial android with their own suite and claims it is more secure (previous post on Blackberry vs Blackphone).

Now Blackberry buys Secusmart and claims increased effort in it's USA/NSA-proof efforts. Yet another security show that proves nothing because Blackberry is a USA company and no matter how it tries to buy a German security company, it's still not NSA/USA-proof.


Just to show the futile efforts Blackberry is trying to save itself.

Gerard van VoorenJuly 30, 2014 5:07 AM

@ Nick P

Thanks for the reply.

I forgot why the microkernel itself is the most important piece. The servers running on top of can't directly interact with each other and have to rely on the IPC (with restrictions) of the microkernel. So a server going down or being corrupted doesn't bring the entire system down.

ChrisJuly 30, 2014 6:24 AM

I am pretty sure its not USA but Canada that is behind Blackberry, not that it makes much difference in this context...

Clive RobinsonJuly 30, 2014 6:41 AM

@ Thoth,

Whilst Blackbery is a US company (strike 1), the company they are getting the technology from is in Germany under the BNDs watchful eye (strike 2) oh and the way German telcos etc are, it probably has BND employees on the payroll one way or another (strike 3) so back to the dugout for Blackberry...

As an army Sargent once put it, when on a windswept snow driven bleak moor in shell scrapes that were filling with icy water as our body heat melted the bog, "When you are up to your neck in the brown stuff, it does not matter what currency you wipe your 455 with, no amount of money is gonna going to make you come up smelling of roses, so live with it". I suspect it's a lesson Blackberry is going to "have to suck up".

I guess the only real question is "Who's going to be holding the mess when the music stops? as is likely to happen with Blackberry in the near future.

BJPJuly 30, 2014 8:53 AM

@Clive, @Buck

The really interesting part with fecal microbiota transplantation, IMO, is that they are showing value in treating stuff as unexpected as depression and anxiety. Crazy times.

BuckJuly 30, 2014 9:14 AM

We really are our microbes! Maybe I'll just stop worrying about securing my systems and hope that eventually the dueling infections will evolve into some sort of effective immune system... ;-)

CzernoJuly 30, 2014 9:37 AM

Att/ Bruce, and Everybody :

Noticed Tor security advisory: "relay early" traffic confirmation attack ?

On July 4 2014 we found a group of relays that we assume were trying to deanonymize users. They appear to have been targeting people who operate or access Tor hidden services. The attack involved modifying Tor protocol headers to do traffic confirmation attacks.

The attacking relays joined the network on January 30 2014, and we removed them from the network on July 4. While we don't know when they started doing the attack, users who operated or accessed hidden services from early February through July 4 should assume they were affected.



Clive RobinsonJuly 30, 2014 9:48 AM

@ Figureitout, Nick P, Wesly Parish, Wael, and others,

As I mentioned I made my own "cats whiskers" and diodes many yeas ago, and feeling nostalgic I had a look to see if anybody else had done or is doing similar.

And I came across this page,

Not only hase he made multiple diode devices including a negative resistance oscilator out of a bit of old zinc plate to make a transmitter with atleast a five mile range. He has also made his own triodes both with a vacuum pump and much more curiously with an alcohol burnner flame. Then there is the "fresh air" TEA laser.

All in all a fasinating browse and I can see a few experiments for my son to do which he can then boast about at school ;-)

Clive RobinsonJuly 30, 2014 10:20 AM

@ BJP, Buck,

Hmm how to put this politely ;-)

The thought of having to be on the receiving end of these therapies would not do much for my anxiety...

Look at it this way there you are lying in a hospital bed when the consultant comes over surounded by a group of junior/trainee doctors and wishes you a chearfull good morning, and said the results from various tests have come back but the prognosis is not good with the drug or surgical therapies. You would feel somewhat down cast by the news. Then the consultant says that they would like to try a new simple therapy that could be done in an hour or so if you willing to give it ago, having been unwell for some considerable time you brighten up at this news and ask the consultant what it is. He replies its FMT therapy to which you look puzzled as you've not heard of it befor and you ask for an explanation, to which the reply is full of long and complicated words, which for some reason your brain is suffering cognitive disconnect. Suddenly the bloke in the next bed starts laughing fit to bust and between his tears of merriment and laughing spasms says "Hey man they are going to pipe somebody elses 541t right up your 455 with a length of hose pipe and a funnel", befor laughing so hard he starts to cough and fall out of bed... You think it's some kind of misunderstanding then you see one of the doctors nodding and it dawns on you that they are not joking, it's for real... Could you seriously say you would not feel a little anxious if not depressed at the thought?

BJPJuly 30, 2014 11:12 AM


You can get it through a nasogastric tube instead if you prefer! The, uh, "product" will have likely undergone more safety checking and validation than the food in stores. I'd personally be more bothered at being told I had no choice but to undergo cervical spinal fusion, having personal experience with caring for somebody as they recovered from that. You can't tell me most children haven't eaten -- knowingly or not -- their own fair amount of "product", or that we don't inhale bits of it each time you're in a public restroom and somebody flushes, turning it all into an aerosol.

(And with that I'll let THIS topic rest... it's almost lunch time for US timezone spooks monitoring this site.)

WaelJuly 30, 2014 11:37 AM

@Clive Robinson,
Fascinating... Brings back old memories. Seems sooo long ago. Now I remember my first "Crystal radio reciever" :) -- Gotta look for a crystal earphone now! I'll surely spend more time brwosing this...

WaelJuly 30, 2014 11:47 AM


And with that I'll let THIS topic rest... it's almost lunch time for US timezone spooks monitoring this site
Good idea! Save it for dinner, when the load is heavier in the stomach :)

BenniJuly 30, 2014 1:16 PM

Obama said, nsa is no longer tapping merkel's phone.

Right, now its probably the canadians, since blackberry just has bought secusmart, which sells the crypto card in the blackberry phone of merkel:

US government put 1,8 millions into tor in 2013:

no wonder that tor has to announce this funny security advisory, where people turned up, operating tor nodes for half a year, de-anonymizing the users:

BenniJuly 30, 2014 4:37 PM

News from general alexander:

He says he will come up with patents that could protect companies from "advanced presistent threats".

Actually, I believe that alexander knows much about "advanced persistent threads".

We go back to the year 2007. At that time, there was no Snowden, but even other NSA employees were disgusted by what the NSA was developing. The german computermagazine C't mentions in an article:

"After trailblazer, a program for internet surveillance had to be cancelled in 2005, its successor turbulence is in difficulties. Turbulence was started at the time when Alexander became director of the NSA, and for Alexander, turbulence has the highest priority.

According to an anonymous NSA employee, it should cost 2 billion dollars. Up to 500 million dollar each year are invested for the project which gets delayed again and again, and faces technical difficulties. Apparently, the NSA fears that the democrats which lead the security councils will look closer than this has happened before.

Turbulance consists of many subprograms and should monitor the internet, as well as manipulat data streams in order to block the information flow if necessary.
Turbulence should monitor individual network routes and thereby filter suspected data packets or block their transmission. Parts of turbulence should indentify social networks, install programs in networks in order to collect data, or search after patterns in databases. Compared to trailblazer, turbulence uses a different method. Trailblazer should collect all data from the internet first, and then analyze it"

Now, thanks to edward snowden, we know what turbulence is. The wikipedia article on it

mentions this document, where NSA tried to sell turbulence to Congressmen.

The slides show turmoil to be a part of turbulence

And what is turmoil?

Well that is this:

How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware:

From the slides above, it becomes clear that burmoil was not just a small misguided project of NSA. Instead it was a major effort that was backed up by congressmen.

And now you have to Imagine. How rotten and disgusting must congressmen be, when they approve a project, even spending 2 billion dollar on it, that aims to infect millions of computers with malware?

And how rotten must NSA director Alexander be, when he made this his primary project in 2007?

Yes, that man knows much about persistent advanced threats.

Because he was personally responsible for developing them....

No, this is not just a corrupt agency. This is a completely rotten and disgusting government and agency that we deal with here.

What do they think they are? Do these congress men really think that non-us persons do not have a right on a computer that is free of malware?

And they have critizised turmoil because of what? Because it was "not effective" and "its development was delayed" and "bureocratic"?

Apparently, the US congress thinks US malware on millions of foreign computers is a good thing, as long as it supports them in their goals. This is the thinking of a rotten government that believes the foreign population around it consists entirely of unworthy underlings.

DBJuly 30, 2014 5:04 PM


As a US person myself, I totally and completely agree with you. It is totalitarian slave driver mentality. They think the rest of the world are our dogs and when we say "sit" everyone must immediately obey.

This kind of thinking is wrong, immoral, and does not belong AT ALL in any free society. It should not be tolerated nor accepted by enlightened beings, it only belongs in the dark ages. Leave it there.

Clive RobinsonJuly 30, 2014 6:21 PM

OFF Topic:

Apparently a security product found frequently in financial organisations has three --yup 3-- zero day privilege escalation attack vectors.

It is Symantec's End Point Protection Security product,

The comment towards the end of the article about software developers has a wince worthy ring of truth about it.

WaelJuly 30, 2014 9:14 PM

@Clive Robinson,

The developers of security software aren't necessarily more security aware.
I have seen that in real life, and that's excluding the code-cutting factor, too.

DBJuly 30, 2014 9:19 PM


and that's excluding the code-cutting factor, too

What? I thought copypasta was the way you were posta do it...

WaelJuly 30, 2014 9:46 PM

:) pretty clever! Unfortunately a lot of developers believe copypasta is what code re-use posta be!

ThothJuly 30, 2014 10:54 PM

What is the trust level for commercial security products that is left in all of you ? Let's take a quick poll.

Me - 15%

ThothJuly 30, 2014 11:01 PM

Regarding the Blackberry company as a US company, my bad, it's a Canada company but afterall, dear America's reach is in everyone's pockets so no difference at all.

Since Blackberry has the history of compromising their secure services in certain countries before, what makes the purchase of Secusmart any different. This time, it might even be worse for Merkel who supposedly use Secusmart.

Originally, you had to get at two different companies and two different products - Blackberry AND Secusmart (2 jurisdictions). Now Blackberry takes over Secusmart (1 jurisdiction) and whatever you do with the Blackberry/Secusmart combo, it's the same company now. They simply need to approach Blackberry and both the phone and the secusmart card is a gone case.

WaelJuly 30, 2014 11:40 PM

@Clive Robinson,

Was reading a bit this interesting site. Came across this:

I was also able to run this transmitter on 3 volts but the power output was much lower - in the range of 300 to 400 microwatts. These microwatt levels could still be heard (not as strong) several miles away.


The output power from a zinc negative resistance transmitter is very small (usually less than one milliwatt) but as pointed out above, a signal with very little power can be heard at unbelievable distances.

So I guess that's one off your list since it partially answers the question I asked you a few weeks ago. I guess you were using a form of encoding similar to Q code? Still, your secret device seems to out perform what this page is claiming ;)

WaelJuly 30, 2014 11:45 PM


What is the trust level for commercial security products
I can't easily quantify it. It's definitely less than before. I would normally stick with this fuzzy answer, but to give you an answer that maps to your request, I would say I started with 50% trust and now the trust level went down by another 50%, so my current trust level is 25% (I know, quite a boring answer). If I were to factor the trust I have in my judgment, then I'll be within your neighborhood of trust range -- around 14.999 :)

FigureitoutJuly 31, 2014 12:04 AM

Wael RE: electronic principles
--Appreciate it, going on the end of my ungodly large reading list :p

If you buy this book and it does not deliver what I said, I'll freakin' reimburse you.
--Ha, well if it's on the google-net for free...I suppose I could be a real douche and say I want my money back b/c it sucked! No kidding, read a few pages, seems like pleasurable reading (and to the point in some cases).

Just like seasoned engineers, coders I'm sure would be well advised to refresh "the basics" which exceed your gray-matter RAM.

RE: insecure coding
I have seen that in real life
--I'd say if you haven't, you've got your head in the sand. People just can't code, we're too stupid or it's being taught extremely poorly. Some rare people can pick up ASM in 2 days(!) but it takes me a while until the patterns sneak out...But also, ask yourself, what do you do that is potentially extremely insecure..? I still have lots of bad habits due to not trying to freak people out. Everyone does, they just try to cover it up. For instance, a "real" secure backup would be retyping everything you did from your head on a shielded PC, no I/O besides dedicated devices that remain isolated until an emergency. Now who really maintains a backup that can't get infected from your insecure work comp?

A separate tangent is, what are your responsibilities? Are you on the hook for delivering a working product or are you a contracted security nit-picker? It's a reasonable question, b/c to really get things done you have to accept this massive amount of risk that there isn't some unnatural conscious threat waiting to break your product; also the process itself has some really uncomfortable holes. Otherwise some other joker will come in talking big promises and undercut you and get you fired, then you can't afford any basic security, you have to be insecure to live...

Clive Robinson RE: sparkbangbuzz
--Incredible link...made my day, definitely saving. Did contain what some morons may consider "terrorist material" by exploring physics and chemistry, so just a warning to people that haven't already clicked on it, if you want to try to stay off a list (lol goodluck...). Of course it's another ham exploring...And I liked how he told people to STFU w/ political correctness and focus on free speech and imbeciles can do what they want w/ regards to safety. My dad got just a simple like clamp for like holding glued things, and we were laughing... the warning labels on them was ridiculous! You have to be a special kind of stupid to consciously hurt yourself and not deserve screwing your finger in slow motion!

Anyway, in addition to the 40m CW transmitter that's really handy, the modulated sound via laser really intrigued me, didn't realize it was so easy to do. But especially the "memristor" was neat. Never even heard of it, WTH is that?! Turns out to be extremely cool, possibly a new type of memory! Dr. Chua is trying to live a dream of mine, create a new fundamental electrical component like resistor/cap/inductor.

One little tidbit from the wiki I noted that someone like [Nick P] would cringe at was here...(emphasis mine)

On February 10, 2014, Nugent and Molter presented a new form of computing dubbed "AHaH Computing", which uses two serially connected memristors as the storage medium for synaptic weights. The proposed architecture provides a solution to the "von Neumann Bottleneck" by merging processor and memory, and future hardware based on the technology may reduce the power consumption of a wide range of machine learning applications.

Clive Robinson/Buck/BJP RE: sh*tpills, butt-worms, and molecular fecal explosions
--What a terrible topic! Christ, it should've stopped after the "whip worms", but then BJP took it further and yes I've heard that before that every time you flush is a "molecular explosion"...those particles get all over you, everywhere...Now imagine a tiny old public bathroom, those walls are slimy bacteria colonies!

Nick P RE: compiler verification
--Haven't read the papers yet as I'm just too busy...All I have to say is, from you--If only they'd integrate this stuff. If only...--Why don't you?

Your meanderings into homebrew IC's is interesting but it won't be a reliable component made w/ machine precision...I'm too spoiled now w/ chips as in a nice cap and a bunch of pins. But the focus should be 3D-printing circuits on nice board to interface easily and won't wear out the ports quickly.

FigureitoutJuly 31, 2014 12:28 AM

What is the trust level for commercial security products that is left in all of you ?
--~0% when taking all the factors into consideration, but I have no other choice and I just take it as a learning experience. The companies as a whole, I'd trust kinda, but they get their parts from somewhere else to make a product, their vendors get parts from somewhere else, etc. All that shipping, is vulnerable to illegal intercept and corruption. How do so many people get parts today..? You get it shipped, and sadly another electronics store like Radio shack is going in the sh*tter as another worthless strip mall w/ clothes stores goes up. Fry's actually had a lot of what I wanted (must've gone on low-stock days); where the entire shipment needs to be corrupted instead of a precision shipping-intercept.

It's why I say, I *may* way in the future consider starting a secure delivery business due to my previous experiences moving things around untouched; it'll be so small that I could personally vouch for the security of the delivery. It'd probably stay just me hand-delivering for awhile and I'd be willing to hear what people want to verify in me to trust me.

Just Call Me AngelJuly 31, 2014 12:29 AM


Was just coming on here because of this slashdot thread:

Now the NSA has yet another dilemma on its hands: Investigative journalist Jason Leopold is suing the agency for denying him the release of financial disclosure statements attributable to its former director. According to a report by Bloomberg , prospective clients of Alexander's, namely large banks, will be billed $1 million a month for his cyber-consulting services. quipped that for an extra million, Alexander would show them the back door (state-installed spyware mechanisms) that the NSA put in consumer routers.

I recall in 2003 being at a table at BH with a NSA guy who was very interested in the late Barnaby Jack's seminal work on routers. He mused that it might be many routers "out there" are compromised.

The exploit code was ingenius: the router is hacked and it looks for any executable code coming down the wire, changes it, and hacks all the systems downstream. Obviously, someone could have greatly modified such a thing for stealth. How often do people scan their routers and update their firmware? How many default passwords are left out there? And wifi, yuck.

Snowden is the best thing that could have happened for these guys. They are making even more money now because of their publicity as mastermind hackers then they ever could before.

No wonder they were such excellent keepers of secrets.

WaelJuly 31, 2014 12:30 AM


I'd say if you haven't, you've got your head in the sand.
Umm, I have seen that in me (a few sometimes) ;)

Some rare people can pick up ASM in 2 days(!)
Oh, no! They'll do the basics, but won't be anywhere near proficient until they spend a few years and have a few hundred thousand lines of code under their belt.
But also, ask yourself, what do you do that is potentially extremely insecure.
Memory and "other" constraints that forces one to say, for instance, reuse a nonce or not verify an HMAC ;)
A separate tangent is, what are your responsibilities? [...] then you can't afford any basic security, you have to be insecure to live...
All true! Except that I am not worried about the "jokers" -- seen way too many of them. All it takes is a a few questions and they're lost in the "buzz word" they don't understand and like throw around to impress the uninformed.

Say, are you drinking milk of amnesia or something? You already forgot THIS? :)

FigureitoutJuly 31, 2014 12:56 AM

Say, are you drinking milk of amnesia or something? You already forgot THIS? :)
/* Joke */
--No, I've been buying this new "muscle milk" product from someone named "Nick P", been making my breasts larger for some reason... Underground stuff, shouldn't be telling you. Fortified w/ BASIC vitamins & minerals, it will give you the strength to "goo-goo gaa-gaa" stronger than any other diaper-wearing coder.
/* End Joke */

WaelJuly 31, 2014 1:06 AM


those walls are slimy bacteria colonies!
You forgot to emphasize it -- colonies ;)

Clive RobinsonJuly 31, 2014 1:28 AM

@ Wael,

First off if you read his comment about distance, it was five miles to an HF portable with a 3ft whip antenna.

Think how much further it would have been with 5/8 over 1/4 instead....

The trick to sending and receiving long distance on naff all power is many fold, but starts with the amount of "usefull metal" you have in the air, the shortness of feedline and low noise in your circuits.

The thing about "useful metal" above 15MHz is that sometimes hight is not everything on a receive antenna. For instance placing an antenna between two buildings can be very effective at reducing the effects of interferance from other spectrum users.

Also for receiver line ups keeping the gain low whilst the bandwidth is high is normaly good, all amplifiers have linearity / noise sweet spots, and often they are not where you would expect from data sheets etc. Also try and avoide the blinkered "must match" viewpoint, what you need to think about is not matching but what you are doing with the reflections and where the excess energy goes, and what you do with it. It's a subject that rarely raises it's head especially when people put narrow band filters directly on the outputs of mixers... I've put impedence mismatched crystals on the outputs of mixers and had good results because I also put antenuators and other bits of trickery on both the LO and RF ports as well as getting and maintaing a good balanced output on the IF port. Further people often use AGC which is a vipers nest of issues unless done properly (don't adjust gain by moving input bias points etc).

But as many seasoned EME operators will tell you the best trade off is distance for bandwidth. If you can work with a 1Hz signaling bandwidth in your receiver then think how much extra range you get over a 25KHz bandwidth when sitting on the respective noise floors. Then think about trading of signalling speed for error correction etc, most data comms does not need to be either real time or fixed rate and there is a lot to be gained with even quite simple short window rerequest systems. Importantly don't throw away previous gains by going from analogue to digital to quickly, many systems realy muck up with the likes of limiters where AM issues get converted to PM issues that add huge uncertainty to clock recovery and thus barf on what would otherwise be a recoverable signal.

Also remember that orthagonal signaling systems nearly always have advantages. I've previously mentioned the old UK Diplomatic Wireless Service system called Piccolo a modern slightly modified software version realy can pull a signal you can neither see nor hear out of the noise in what seems like magic to even seasoned data comms engineers.

Clive RobinsonJuly 31, 2014 1:35 AM

@ Figureitout,

"goo-goo gaa-gaa"

Shouldn't that be 'go go char char'?

Gerard van VoorenJuly 31, 2014 3:40 AM

@ DB, Benni

"As a US person myself, I totally and completely agree with you. It is totalitarian slave driver mentality. They think the rest of the world are our dogs and when we say "sit" everyone must immediately obey."

It is probably the result of what G.W. Bush once said:

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."[1]

Such a polarizing world view, coming from the chief in charge himself, the president of the US, that is just plain evil. It is also very, very anti democratic! The result of this evil polarizing lack of respect is what we are discussing most of the time here on this blog.

And what is worse, everybody in that room stood up and clapped their hands, a clear sign that they all agreed.


Clive RobinsonJuly 31, 2014 4:23 AM

@ Figureitout,

With regards the memristors, one of the researchers that published a letter on building a memristor from a diode bridge and LC filter is Fernando Corinto.

A look at his home page on research interests is interesting,

As is the papers section of his CV. He appears to have interests in loosly coupled oscilators in chaotic systems for pattern recognition.

As you may remember such oscilators have been suggested as cryptographic elements, and also that they have certain similarities to some quantum processing devices.

The memristor might be an opening to a new field in cryptography research in a few years (if others are not "quietly doing it already").

ThothJuly 31, 2014 4:31 AM

@Nick P and secure hardware experts
Is it possible to have a stored capacitor as a battery for wiping flash chips directly in the scenario of being used as a trap in a tamper device ?

Clive RobinsonJuly 31, 2014 8:28 AM

@ Thoth,

    Is it possible to have a stored capacitor as a battery for wiping flash chips directly...

Yes but it may not be practical. The problem is although a cap or super-cap is an energy storage device, it has a couple of disadvantages. The first is the energy density per cubic cm is very low compared to battery technology. Secondly is the discharge voltage curve which is a lot lot worse than battery technology.

Where caps do score is the number of charge discharge cycles, these are up in the thousands of millions for many caps where as some batteries are only good for a couple of hundred. Further caps don't have the "memory effect" conventional batteries have.

The solution to the problem is to not erase the whole flash device (which might not work any way). But to encrypt most of the flash and then you only need wipe the key(s). It is this solution that many security products now adopt, even if they do try and erase the whole flash chip.

Also remember depending on the type / manufacturer of the flash device, you may not even be able to erase a whole flash device because of the way they are designed to get an acceptable usage life. With realy cheap parts being used in the likes of removable flash devices the real memory might be one and a half or two times the declared memory size that you can see from the device terminals. Thus you may not be able to get at the memory without pulling some tricks which involve multiple writing and erasure cycles, all of which takes time and a lot of current, which you don't have with caps.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsJuly 31, 2014 10:03 AM

@ Nick P

Is it possible to have a stored capacitor as a battery for wiping flash chips directly in the scenario of being used as a trap in a tamper device ?

Two components of a device that can be used as a tamper guard using super-caps;
1.) the trigger, activation source and its relationship to product logical layers, and,
2.) types of sources for charging (harvesting or local source).

If you desire an "aftermarket" product then harvesting and triggering will be localized. For a production device, harvesting may still be an option as you could have a separate (no battery inserted) option to kill a device sans the normal power supply. This option would require clock sync and RTC but might just be a 2mm SMD component. Want a design specification?

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsJuly 31, 2014 10:09 AM

@ Gerard van Vooren

And what is worse, everybody in that room stood up and clapped their hands, a clear sign that they all agreed.

I for one knew immediately that the world's "leading" democracy was in crisis. My first reaction to Bush's statement..."You are either with us or against us."...why I'll have another Guinness.

Nick PJuly 31, 2014 1:59 PM

@ Thoth

"Is it possible to have a stored capacitor as a battery for wiping flash chips directly in the scenario of being used as a trap in a tamper device ?"

We had a thorough discussion of this here a while back. I proposed touching the chip with 500,000-700,000 volt stun guns should do the trick. I was going to automate that if I got good feedback, even maybe taking a layer off the top to help. RobertT told Clive and I about all the problems involved in getting an electrical current through flash, overwriting it, etc. The short story is don't trust electricity to do the job in electronics destruction.

My steady advice in secure deletion is to encrypt the device, then delete the key. NSA even approves of this strategy internally with their Inline Media Encryptors. Once applying solid encryption (and integrity), the device is considered unclassified as attackers aren't getting squat.

If you do want the destruction route, Clive and I settled on thermite method. The chips and drive should be in a container that essentially ensures all the energy is directed at the chips. The newest work in this is Skunkwork's presentation on doing it in just the right way to achieve good destruction internally without damaging anything else in the datacenter.

I'll also add that thermite is cheap and often legal.

Nick PJuly 31, 2014 2:09 PM

@ Figureitout

"RE: sh*tpills, butt-worms, and molecular fecal explosions"

It was all quite disgusting. I could've gone my whole life without seeing that stuff.

RE: compiler verification

"why don't you?"

Time, money, worn out brain, and other issues. There's plenty of people with more reasons and resources to *do* a project than to not do one. Those people need to get on the integration.

"Your meanderings into homebrew IC's is interesting but it won't be a reliable component made w/ machine precision..."

That's already happened and is still happening as Iain Moffet showed. I'm not relying on it, though. Main concepts for chip prototyping are FPGA's or MOSIS service. Implementation on other, low subversion risk chips is still a possibility.

"But the focus should be 3D-printing circuits on nice board to interface easily and won't wear out the ports quickly."

Getting boards done is already pretty cheap so we shouldn't focus on that. The chip designs are what will take the maximum effort for both design and verification. However, research on the side into 3D printing of boards is a good thing as it can get cost down and flexibility up. I could even imagine a new type of board that's like a breadboard to hold components, but whose circuits were done by a layer that was a printed sheet. It might even be affixed to the back of it like stores do with price signs. Plug n play and easy swapping of components.

Still need trustworthy components...

Nick PJuly 31, 2014 2:17 PM

@ bitguru

It's both believable and unsurprising. In hardware backdoor discussions here, RobertT pointed out that most chips in your phone or computer contain all kinds of functionality they don't advertise. Some of it is functionality they use to make the chip work, like a microcontroller. A programmable microcontroller + DMA is automatically a huge security threat as microcontrollers aren't designed for security typically. The other type of functionality he pointed out was from design reuse to cut costs like redoing chips. They'll take an ASIC-proven design, disable some of it, and then put it in their new ASIC or SOC. What they disabled you don't see and depending on their method might be able to turn back on later.

So many issues. Any chip should be considered untrusted by default just like any piece of software. So, with peripherals, it's why there's many projects leveraging IOMMU's, chip to chip authentication, and even cryptosystems. USB has been a steady security risk which is why I promoted simple methods for trusted inputs, like serial ports or PS/2. I also encourage people to disable their USB ports in BIOS and with superglue. ;)

Prinz von der SchemeringJuly 31, 2014 9:15 PM

@Gerard van Vooren

"It is probably the result of what G.W. Bush once said:

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.""

The corollary of that is of course:

"Everyone's crazy except you and me... and I'm not so sure about you"

while the conclusion of the previous statement is that since wild animals are not with us, they are with the terrorists. And the Earth itself is not "with us", so it is "with the terrorists" ...

America should check itself into a mental health clinic, except that it already has, and no signs of improvement have been seen.

ThothJuly 31, 2014 9:38 PM

@Nick P
Would it be of any practical security if the micro-controller program would disable normal read/write functions other than specialized protocols in a setting of a cleanly designed chipset using clean and custom parts ?

I noticed that a lot of "secure USB sticks" like IronKey simply encrypts everything but do not allow a secure execution environment within the USB sticks.

If user wants to store portable secrets (encryption keys, passwords ..etc...) on the USB sticks, certainly, the execution within a tamper resistant specialized USB stick would actually have a plus point and the portability in a small form factor. The only major risk is how the user retrieve the secrets from the tamper resistant customized USB device. Is this idea able to produce feasible security and portability ?

AnonymousBlokeJuly 31, 2014 11:34 PM

I am Satan and the Bad Guy.

And I am **not** "Skeptical".

But, I do admit to "worse" things then he does. Because I am guilty of that.

Here's my crazy plan on Iraq: to leave it not sectarian. So it will break up. I wanted to invade Iraq, because I felt it would hit up Iranians and Palestinians.

Eventually, I want Israel forced into a situation where every country on earth condemns them. So they will all join together and attack them.

Basic armageddon scenario.

So... I am so "evil". Whatever.

And -- FYI, I worked in close intimacy with US forces. Who... on earth... do you think... was more useful for us to manipulate???

Problem to solve?? Old age. Death. Disease. War.

So, yeah. Forgive me retrospectively.



FigureitoutAugust 1, 2014 12:05 AM

You forgot to emphasize it -- colonies ;)
--No, damnit. Let it go! Goddamnit, fine here's my opinion on our "sh*t" system. First off, ~7 billion people on the planet, everyone farts, how much poo-particles do I breathe-in everyday? Not to mention everyone sh*ts, where does all that go besides our water supply? I really hope the people in charge of those systems (and the workers keeping it running) are being well-compensated; regardless the planet will be one big sewer eventually, even frozen turds up in "the purest artic glaciers"...*cringe*...

Clive Robinson
Shouldn't that be 'go go char char'?
--Probably have to explain your joke lol. I should've said "code cutters" instead of just "coders" as I actually have a lot of respect for the driver-writers, assembly and compiler-writers. One coder in particular I've noticed, could go from inline-assembly all the way up to a javascript-script to put in HTML-code for a webpage. It was just 1 person who wrote all this code. Also all the nifty embedded C-code is really interesting to think about and try to walk thru.

Suppose I now have to supply an interesting link back to you, that's how this game goes, right? I'll find a good joke eventually...

Nick P
Time, money, worn out brain, and other issues.
--Well now you know how I feel already. Time-wise I'm focusing on real knowledge (not necessarily security-related), money I'm broke, worn-out brain I've got some problems that aren't easy to deal w/ and "other issues", new ones always pop up. But you always talk about "doing it right", I wanted to see if you could actually deliver on that, what it means, or if the work is too much for you and you admit defeat?

Seem a little down. How about this, original starcraft ported to an ARM processor?

The music really does it for me, so many hours on that damn music. If only someone would do this w/ Nox...Over at 'Morden Tral' has been trying to get a NoX2 project going as EA Games shutdown their online servers a while back and that really hurt the game. Still got a new free copy so I can play by myself and there's rarely no one online...

FigureitoutAugust 1, 2014 1:19 AM

I am Satan and the Bad Guy.
But, I do admit to "worse" things then he does. Because I am guilty of that.
--Why don't you just come clean and get it over w/? I've gone "full-retard" w/ regards to coming clean on the internet. Do it, it feels good, like "confessing your sins" I guess...Being a complete troll these days is boring and worthless, so if that's what you're into, ok...Otherwise you could've condensed you comment into 13 lines instead of 28, and offered up some actual useful information instead of worthless insincere speculation like 'skeptical'...

AnonymousBlokeAugust 1, 2014 2:43 AM

The horrible truth...

So... from my own perspective, that Bush felt Saddam tried to kill his dad, or who knows what Obama thought... I do not really care. We manipulate people was we will.

I am not saying this is how the end will come to pass.

But, it is very possible we could put Israel in such a position that everyone would go against her.

So, you would have your classic armageddon scenario.

This concept of people rising in the literal sky. This concept of them totally disappearing. This disinformation does not bother me in the least.

Ultimately, what we are talking about is the end of disease. Of old age. Of death.

History shows up again and again the folly of men. Godzilla.

AnonymousBlokeAugust 1, 2014 2:56 AM

I am Satan and the Bad Guy.
But, I do admit to "worse" things then he does. Because I am guilty of that.
--Why don't you just come clean and get it over w/? I've gone "full-retard" w/ regards to coming clean on the internet. Do it, it feels good, like "confessing your sins" I guess...Being a complete troll these days is boring and worthless, so if that's what you're into, ok...Otherwise you could've condensed you comment into 13 lines instead of 28, and offered up some actual useful information instead of worthless insincere speculation like 'skeptical'...

What... do you want to know? 'The clock says it is time to close, I really want to stay here all night... all night!'

'The movie will begin in five minutes... the program for this evening is not new...'

I drank too much.

But... I am still alive....

'Five to one... one in five...'

There are vampire movies. Where people do not age. Let me in is probably my favorite. What is a good song? Shriekback, Big Black Nemesis.

'We are not monsters, we are moral people... call in the air strike, with a poison strike'... 'no one move a muscle as the dead come home'.

Believe me. I wanted to come home.

'God is not mocked. He owns a business.'

Did you hear about the girl who drowned, three hours dead... and they brought her back alive.......

My death was a bit more mysterious.

Yet... here I am.

AnonymousBlokeAugust 1, 2014 3:09 AM

Anyway... some facts.

I do not use tor or something to connect to this site.

I have let loose some pretty bad facts. And have worked in some pretty serious places.

I have worked in telco infrastructure...

I am no fan of the US Government, nor "five eyes"... prying into their own people. This stinks to me of the very authoritarianism/totalitarianism they pretend to be against.

I do not rely on a "TLA" for protection.

Fact is... they can search me down, and eat my shit.

Not to be crude, "I am going to Wichita... far from this opera forevermore"...

It is true, however: I have both made systems of security which they have adopted, and given them patterns of analysis and running of agents... which they have found very valuable.

All of this, however, has been manipulation.

The reality is... I grew up with a certain organization...and we have certain demands.

One of these is that regardless of how extreme Israel seems to be... that they they are okay, and operating as they should be.


I feel for people who believe this is because of Jewish influence.

No, we are running a dig against a celestial being named Satan.

Of course, the real armageddon is probably not literally at literal armageddon.


AnonymousBlokeAugust 1, 2014 3:55 AM


I am Satan and the Bad Guy.
But, I do admit to "worse" things then he does. Because I am guilty of that.
--Why don't you just come clean and get it over w/? I've gone "full-retard" w/ regards to coming clean on the internet. Do it, it feels good, like "confessing your sins" I guess...Being a complete troll these days is boring and worthless, so if that's what you're into, ok...Otherwise you could've condensed you comment into 13 lines instead of 28, and offered up some actual useful information instead of worthless insincere speculation like 'skeptical'...

What do you wish for me to say? I have not sinned. And unlike skeptical, perhaps, everything I have done is intentional.

I wanted Bush to invade Iraq. He had no reason to. I had reason for him to do this.

Far from being "off topic", or sinful... this was my intention.

I have the following ruse: for the world to be so disgusted at Israel, that they go and attack that country. Of course, as noted, this is a potential ruse. As "Israel" can be metaphoric for some other place.

I understand a lot of people think there is some sort of treaty that has to be signed. They are quite incorrect, and so their opinions are totally meaningless.

I also understand a lot of people see "the rapture" as being what they visualize it being, instead of what it will be. Again, their opinions are entirely meaningless.

They never bothered to try and ask what any of this would really mean, so their opinions - their fictions - are completely veto'd.

If you wish to know, and I am sure you do want to know how the age that is ends....

The powers, the nations that be.... will go against another power.

Be that in physical Israel... or somewhere else... is yet to be ascertained.

In their aggression, they will find their own powers utterly destroyed.

I will also say that on this planet are very many chrysalis..... at some near juncture... they will all awake. And this will entirely reshape the world as it is.

But...... people do not listen. They do not heed what is reasonable. They believe what they want to believe based on their preferences......

Still, All this will come to pass. Soon.

Nick PAugust 1, 2014 9:50 PM

We've often discussed writing OS's in languages safer than C/C++. I proposed Pascal as one of the choices for the OS software with the most low level stuff in assembler wrapped by typed function calls. Free Pascal is the main distribution that has plenty of tool and community support. Turns out, there's some OS's written in Free Pascal to look at. They have interesting design elements, too:

Toro makes me think the SPIN OS could be rewritten in FP. The JX OS's native functions could be done in it as well. One could even toss the Java aspect of JX, transitioning to an Oberon-type language or something more mainstream like Go. The point is you can use a language superior to C/C++ for the lower layer, then move to something higher level and safer for the high level stuff.

FigureitoutAugust 1, 2014 11:58 PM

Clive Robinson RE: a link for a link...
--So, I know I've mentioned the book before, but it's obscure enough (and slightly difficult to find on the 'net, legally...). The book is titled: 103 simple transistor projects by Tom Kneitel. The file's encrypted, I've only searched like 10 minutes, not going to go crazy looking for it (you could always give me an address to send you the book to borrow :p ), in AES-128 CBC mode:

must get key, crack encryption, make account, or go to library to see.


The book has all kinds of these little nifty circuits like that sparkbangbuzz page, they're all interesting but one that just catches my eye for whatever reason is the "Clorox-Powered Oscillator". I suppose I could link a pic of the circuit but I'm sure you've already built it. :p I'll quote a little from the Kneitel page though that may sound familiar:

As a teenager growing up in New York City, Tommy operated an AM pirate station known as WISP. During a DX test in 1949, he received reception reports as far away as Ohio.

He was later inducted into the CQ Am. Radio Hall of Fame in 2004 (died in 2008...). Neat book he wrote, I got it from my dad's house, I know there's many more hidden treasures there. After looking for some of the parts I needed though (which were all obsolete) I just decided to wait on trying out some of the circuits. I have a feeling though that some modern transistors will still work...just haven't tried it yet as I'm doing some more "administrative" duties, which I actually kind of enjoy setting up my "lab".

Nick P
--I'll wait for someone to write an OS and all the necessary hardware drivers in a "safer" language. All the work and brilliance that involves...The transition from "english" to "computer language" is still going to be the killer. Be interesting to see what kind of security holes it will have...

Clive RobinsonAugust 2, 2014 1:30 AM

@ Figureitout,

I'll wait for someone to write an OS and all the necessary hardware drivers in a "safer" language. All the work and brilliance that involves...The transition from "english" to"computer language" is still going to be the killer.

Yup English in it's many forms is probably the least "safe language" there is. It's one of the reasons judicial and legislative decisions / laws are difficult to read. They not only have to be logicaly precise they also have to second guess "legal weasles" who will look for exceptions, loop holes and work arounds.

As we have seen with the US IC and TLA's one trick is to redefine words to have new or different meanings, another of past times was to find an uncovered senario and then argue outwards, it's one of the reasons legislation started to go wide. Which as we have seen makes great news for vindictive prosecuters who will chearfully drive people to their graves just for political gain. It's just messy messy messy.

With regards the book not sure if I've ever seen it, but I've seen a lot, you would be suprised at just how many configurations there are for just a couple of three legged active components and a handfull of two legged pasives. On of my favourites is a npn transistor in what is common base mode that appart from bias components is connected to a single transformer to provide a very wide band amplifier with relativly low noise and high dynamic range. It's good for antenna amps, receiver front ends IF amps immediately following diode mixers and similar. The only down side is the gain is fixed by the turns ratio and the resulting transformers can be difficult to wind. Which might account for why wide band MMICs are used instead these days.

WaelAugust 2, 2014 5:52 AM

@Clive Robinson,

Yup English in it's many forms is probably the least "safe language" there is.
Why is that?

I had typed up a longer response but opened another tab on my safari browser on the iPad to checkout some links, and when I came back to this tab, all the text I typed was gone, now I'll have to use the editor even for short responses...

WaelAugust 2, 2014 5:56 AM

@Clive Robinson,

this is an OS
One would expect this to be an easy distinction to make. Truth is, sometimes it's not! There are "execution environments" and there are other grey categories that may or may not be classified under an OS.

WaelAugust 2, 2014 10:13 AM

@Clive Robinson,
Politics is a dirty business. The end justifies the means. Nothing surprises me anymore...

DBAugust 2, 2014 7:58 PM

That's what I've been saying for a while now. These people have no conscience and no morals. Anything and everything goes if they think they might be able to get away with it. No difference between them and any common dictator.

Nick PAugust 2, 2014 11:04 PM

The recent news that HP licensed OpenVMS to some company to do possible future development is good to hear. While not "unhackable" as often claimed, it's quality was certainly as high as claimed. I was recently trying to buy a cheap box preloaded with VMS when I stumbled upon this article by accident:

There's plenty of comments on it and that's always where the good information is on VMS pages. The testimonials are mostly about how rock-solid it was in operation (eg a decade plus without reboot) but have a few new statements. One pointed out that their assembler was about as easy as coding in C. That's an overstatement, but they did work to make it easier. Another, comment 137, explains some specific design decisions for security in OpenVMS that make Windows and UNIX architecture look lame in comparison. Among other advantageous features of the time...

Then, there was this nice poster that represents one of the funnier sides of the subversion risk:

Canadian Developers Are Making the Next Tails Privacy SoftwareAugust 3, 2014 1:13 AM

"Whether it's the NSA exploiting weaknesses in encryption software[1], the holes in Tor[2] making it less anonymous, or the major problems with Tails[3] - vulnerabilities are constantly testing the security and anonymity of computer users.

But little known Montreal-based developers at Subgraph[4] want to change all that, and have started working on a zero-day resistant[5] Operating System (OS), protecting against infiltration.

Subgraph takes the approach that overall computer security is critical to anonymity, targeting protection against zero-day vulnerabilities, the types of weakness unknown to the developers while they're writing software."


Clive RobinsonAugust 3, 2014 4:10 AM

@ Wael,

… and when I came back to this tab, all the text I typed was gone, ...

I feel your pain on that, this smartphone browser does the same and worse from time to time. And it's not always the phone that causes the problem but the Network Service Provider... it's enough to make a sane man mad, if not paranoid ;-) Which is just the "cherry on top" that stops me using it for anything other than harmless browsing =8-(

With regards the English language, it's lazy and lacks structure when spoken, and even with the additions of grammar and punctuation this does little for it in the written form. For instance what do I actually mean with,

    I saw a man eating squid

Am I talking about a view of a restaurant table or over the side of a boat along the Western US coast which the "red devils" and larger infest?

I could go on, but as others have observed, the lack of precision is actual an advantage as it encourages humour and quick witted thinking, and arguably it's lack of formal structure encourages it to grow, which makes it all the more expressive which encorages other types of thinking. Some have argued that it's prevelance in science and engineering is due more to the way it makes people think rather than any imperialistic hang over from the past. Others have also argued that it's inherent lazyness makes it easy to pick up and the lack of structure forgiving on those learning to speak it. And this point has been amplified by others as the reason why those who's first language it is rarely procead to learn other languages, not because of the ubiquity but because they don't learn the skills at an early age for more structured languages.

I will leave it with this little ditty supposadly found carved in a school desk top,

  • Latin is a language,
  • as dead as dead can be.
  • It killed the ancient Romans,
  • and now it's killing me.

P.S. I'll give up on the HTML formating at that point, as it's Sunday ;-)

Iain MoffatAugust 3, 2014 6:20 AM

@Nick: PASCAL (or actually ALGOL) with inline machine code has a long history - the British defence industry standardised it as CORAL66 in 1966 - see and

As an existence proof, an Integer PASCAL sufficient for systems programming can be surprisingly small - when I was at university in the 1980s there was a significant amount of extra-curricular work on various Z80 systems and a contemporary of mine wrote a useful compiler for Sharp MZ-Series machines that was about 12K of object code. As with all of the his languages (he also did Fortran IV and FORTH) it supported inline hex machine code so is very much what you had in mind - I used it on a 2nd hand MZ-80K which was my first personal computer.

I guess 12K of object code is around 4-6k lines of assembly language source so potentially fully auditable. I think any useful modern BIOS would be bigger (and probably harder to make safe!)

Iain MoffatAugust 3, 2014 6:24 AM

@figureitout: Another good electronics book I used extensively in my student days (when it was new) is "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill

FigureitoutAugust 3, 2014 11:47 AM

Iain Moffat
--Looks excellent, thanks. Someone even digitized the 1041 pages, I love you whoever you are. Read the intro just to get a taste and yeah, the bit about transistors:

Finally, there are frequent (some might say too frequent) situations where the right IC just doesn't exist, and you have to rely on discrete transistor circuitry to do the job.

was right. We had to do this at my job, in addition to a RS-232--TTL converter as well as an addition couple transistors and a few resistors to clean up signal.

I've got my hands full w/ my "administrative" duties I brought on myself for getting my current computers to a reasonable assurance and back under my control somewhat. Setting up an "internet computer" and working on a firewall, and then "work computers" and "radio computers" w/ my digital stations (they were infected too...). And I just got another computer haha. :p In addition to reading the 2014 ARRL handbook and site preparing to get down to a level of computing I'm not exactly comfortable or experienced but very interested in. W/ LED's and my 20MHz I should be able to verify somewhat (not nearly enough yet) as I step through a program.

In addition to ASM taking up my time, I'm getting stuck on the power supply though, freaking out about not doing enough filtering and I'm thinking I'm going to use a SMPS just for developing, then make the linear one after.

Getting and designing my shield case[s] will be a tough part too, as I naturally don't *love* working w/ power tools. Just small things like solder, little dremel, screws, wire cutters, etc. Not like full on metal grinding, too much dust and noise.

Clive Robinson
--I believe that vindictive people always get what they have coming to them. Bitter nothingness eventually.

On the comment about how many combos w/ transistors and other components, that what kills me...what if someone was so close to some really extraordinary behavior, or what exists just waiting to be found?

It's why I plan on making a way to systematically test combinations of circuits and try to test them in real-life too [if I get enough money eventually and the proper lab space/equipment]. That would be a useful chunk of information for future people, try to organize it and see a pattern easier, unless someone has already started on it; surely someone has...

/***** OT *****/

Two neat articles from /r/netsec:

Outsmarting the Smart meter: potential uses include capturing attacks and surveillance on power consumption.

The Tigress Diversifying C Virtualizer: code obfuscation, not quite sure how it works yet.

Nick PAugust 3, 2014 1:58 PM

@ Clive Robinson

Thanks for the link it's awesome! I was probably going to spend $150+ when $60-80 would do. I mean, I might not save any money: the more boards the better. Im also glad the Cypress PSoC is there as it's an interesting design.

@ Iain Moffet

Thanks for the validation. Even more relevant, the GEMSOS security kernel was written in Pascal. It was formally verified and ran on systems like 286 and 386. They used it in a number of demanding applications. So that's some empirical data in Pascal's favor for both efficient and security-critical code.

Nick PAugust 3, 2014 9:48 PM

re Synchronous vs Asynchronous Circuits: Can we have both?

I've previously pointed out I like asynchronous circuits for their positive attributes, which include being able to easily kill software-visible timing channels with tiny modifications. Thing is, though, I also like being able to produce and verify circuits in an automated fashion. And reuse existing one's, open or commercial. All that effort is in synchronous tools for the most part. Yet, they use similar logic in many ways with the synchronization method being the main difference. So, how to get the best of both worlds.

My idea was inspired by the papers I've been reading. There were papers on good tools and methods for asynch designs, although they're a bit primitive. There's also tools that can verify synchronous designs' logic and over-all operation. There's also tools that synthesize such designs into circuits. So, my idea was to simply design something in a synchronous toolset, verify as much of it as possible using strongest methods, synthesize it into low-level stuff, and then make a tool (the invention) that automatically translates that into a asynch circuit. It might also do basic verification with auto-test-generation and/or co-simulation verification.

So, today, I hold my breath to see if anyone has tried it or (gulp) patented it. I find this and this. Sorry people... I wasn't fast enough.

Nonetheless, it still might be worth whatever royalties and licensing fees are needed to create the tool. My idea is doing both a asynchronous standard cell library (with sync-to-async conversion) and a synthesis tool for eASIC's FPGA technology. The latter combines async and FPGA advantages, while providing a quick Structured ASIC generation strategy.

Nick PAugust 3, 2014 10:14 PM

EDIT TO ADD: The company that owned that patent was Achronix Semiconductor. I looked them up to see if they mention it in a product and what they do. Well, I don't see asynch tools mentioned but I do see a 22nm FPGA with jaw-dropping specs:

100G ethernet (Interlaken), individual SERDES I/O lanes at 28 Gbps, 1.1 million LUT's, 145Mb of on-chip RAM (SRAM?), PCI-E with hardwired DMA engines... This thing is badass. Least the patent is owned by *that* kind of company rather than a troll.

@ DB

That would be funny. My patent might cite theirs as a manual method for doing it. I then patent an automated method, perhaps hardware accelerated (real improvement), that gets it done. Then, I got a patent on their patent. Gotta love our system!

Clive RobinsonAugust 4, 2014 3:39 AM

@ Nick P,

At the simplest view point, synchronous logic is that which uses registers latches or flip-flops to align logic signals. In practice it's more complicated for instance the JK latch also can be used to do certain logic functions that could be done with asynch logic prior to a simple SR latch and in the past including asynchronous logic into the twisted loops of a latch was a way of reducing gate count and delay times.

Clocked logic is an example of using asynchronous logic to obtain synchronized behaviour, the problem is the metastability issues that arise. Metastability is at the end of the day a "random element" in that occassionaly it does not do as expected and predicting this "off behaviour" is often regarded as not possible.

The simple fact is metastability can be induced by various feedback tricks that in effect change the bias point of the logic element that is triggered by the clock input state change. Thus it could be argued that metastability is more a chaotic than random process. Whilst the distinction does not at first sight appear that important, it does become important when external influence is considered.

As indicated metastability effects can be "enhanced" by feedback, they can likewise be "enhanced" by injecting other signals. This can be easily demonstrated by taking a 74 series Schmit trigger nand gate and connecting an AT cut crystal from it's output back to it's input it will oscillate at the fundemental series resonant point of the crystal. This can be heard as a harmonic on an ordinary FM receiver, if we now inject via a capacitor to the nand input an audio signal from an electret microphone the oscillating frequency becomes phase modulated by the audio signal and thus clearly heard on the FM radio.

Thus the effects of metastability can be "harnessed" constructively by injecting an influencing signal. The question thus arises as to the number of susceptible points on a gate, and the number of different ways a controlling signal can be injected. One way is by using an EM carrier that is both AM and FM modulated, this has the advantage of not requiring direct electrical contact with the logic circuit.

Thus asynchronous logic can be synchronized to an EM carrier, which is a problem if you are relying on the asynchronous effects for security or other secondary or primary effects on the operation of the logic. This issue became quite clear back when the security of smart cards was being investigated in terms of key leakage in the power domain signals, and the use of asynchronous logic was dropped.

There are ways you can reduce --but not eliminate-- the effect of injected signals in logic, but they are not well known nor are they amenable to simple rules. This is an ideal area for synthesis tools to work in and as far as I can tell is currently unencumbered by patents.

WaelAugust 5, 2014 1:57 AM

@Clive Robinson,

With regards the English language, it's lazy and lacks structure when spoken, and even with the additions of grammar and punctuation this does little for it in the written form. For instance what do I actually mean with,
I saw a man eating squid
Most languages I know share this trait. In some languages, like German, some English statements cannot be "said". For example, "my cat has a tail, but I don't have a tail" would make people laugh. I don't know how to say that in German because the word "tail" could mean two things. I would appreciate help from a native German speaker to translate it :)

Another example from English or Arabic could be:
"I drink my tea boiling hot": Is the tea hot, or am I? no wise cracks, @ Figureitout...
"I drink my tea standing up": Who is standing up? I or the tea? That's an easy one because we all know that tea doesn't have legs, and it can't possibly stand up. [1]

Grammartarians would not have a problem disambiguating such expressions but there are more complex ones that would give them headaches. Same thing to a lesser extent applies to programming languages.

I will leave it with this little ditty supposadly found carved in a school desk top,
I like that :) I still remember one from my collage days -- pretty funny too, and maybe just as famous: "here I sit broken hearted, came to sh... but only fa.." and: "No matter how much you dance and wiggle, the last few drops in your pants must dribble"

Another one that made an ultra serious professor (the chairman of the EE department) come to class laughing - and he never laughed in front of us - after he saw this written on the bathroom door: "I am stuck in the S domain". the class was related to Laplace transforms and network theory... (transforming systems of differential equations from the time domain (t domain) to algebraic equations in the frequency domain (S domain).

Getting off topic, so I'll leave it here...

[1] We often talk about drinks and tea. I am willing to bet some TLA is thinking we are using some kind of code :)

PetrobrasAugust 5, 2014 4:20 AM

@Nick P: "For those interesting in homebrew fabs I just found this interesting comment on a forum: [...]"

Thanks for sharing ! You did not provide the link: is it ? (This has other interesting links.)

$2k to $10k per circuit, chips of 3" done on 60um. Pretty usable, thanks again !

WaelJanuary 26, 2015 12:33 AM

@ Nick P,

Got a chance to read some of these links...

So, Ocaml is good stuff but Haskell seems better in near term and future. 1⃣
They use a theorem prover and Ocaml for assurance. 2⃣

You don't say much about Ocaml, but I sense you have some intrest in it. Where does it rank in your view from a "security" perspective? I don't know much about it, it has a somewhat repulsive syntax ;)

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Resilient Systems, Inc.