We've already seen a few viruses delivered via hardware, but a group of researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are now warning that we may not have seen anything yet. As New Scientist reports, they've apparently managed to develop their own "malicious circuits," which they say can interfere with a computer at a deeper level than a virus, and completely bypass traditional anti-virus software. To accomplish that slightly unsettling feat, the researchers created a replica of the open source Leon3 processor, and added about 1,000 malicious circuits not present in the original processor. Once they hooked that up to another computer they were apparently not only able to swipe passwords from memory, but install malware that would allow the operating system to be remotely controlled as well. Of course, they admit that sneaking such malicious circuits onto a chip isn't exactly an easy proposition, given that someone would either need to have access to a chip during its manufacturing process, or have the ability to manufacture their own. Or, as the project's lead researcher puts it, it's "not something someone would carry out on weekends."

[Via TG Daily, image courtesy Actel]

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Researchers design "malicious circuits," warn of potential risk