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U.S. military could be shut down by secret 'back door'

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Sources have confirmed that the U.S. Department of Defense over recent months purchased 59,000 microchips to use in Navy equipment that control everything from missiles to transponders, according to report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

But all of the chips turned out to be cheap knock-offs from China, and they ultimately were not installed, according to sources.

Besides being subject to failure, the chips also were designed with a “back door” which would have allowed the chip, and the device it controlled, to be shut down remotely at any time, sources report.

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Had the flaw not been detected, the chips could have shut down U.S. warships, aircraft, advanced weapons systems and encoded transponders that distinguish friendly aircraft from hostile attackers.

The revelation is only the latest in a series of incidents that have sent off alarm bells in the Pentagon. China previously was found to have been actively pursuing placing back doors in computer equipment. Several cases have been uncovered in which Internet-capable devices have had Chinese chips in them which also provided a back door into the networks the devices were supposed to protect. The devices were attached not only to industrial and commercial networks but also to networks that were defined as part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure.”

The problem is not unique to the U.S.

A Feb. 3, 2010, G2 Bulletin article outlined how Britain’s MI5 accused cyber intelligence agents in China of attacking U.K. businesses with the goal of gaining commercial intelligence. A leaked MI5 document said undercover intelligence officers from the People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of Public Security approached U.K. businessmen at trade fairs and exhibitions with the offers of cameras and memory sticks.

But the “gifts” were found to contain back doors that provide the Chinese with remote access to the business computers.

In February 2005 the U.S. Department of Defense issued a report titled, “High Performance Microchip Supply.” There, the Defense Science Board Task Force stated:=

“It is clear from recent trends in the microelectronics industry that a significant migration of critical microelectronics manufacturing from the United States to other foreign countries has and will continue to occur. The rate of this technology migration is alarming because of the strategic significance this technology has on the U.S. economy and the ability of the United States to maintain a technological advantage in the Department of Defense (DoD), government, commercial and industrial sectors. Our greatest concern lies in microelectronics supplies for defense, national infrastructure and intelligence applications.”

The report goes on to state that there is increasing pressure on microchip or “integrated circuit” (IC) suppliers to outsource their manufacturing operations offshore to lower cost. The report concludes that this move is “contrary to the best interests of the Department of Defense.” The report states that these foreign chips open the possibility for backdoors or “Trojan horses” to be embedded into the microchips used for military applications.

From a security standpoint, it would be much safer for the military to use commercial off the shelf components for their applications, since the supplier would not know the ultimate purchaser. But this is not practical because of the requirements the military places on the purchasing process. The requirements are so stringent that the microchips have very few commercial applications. Many times a supplier can look at the purchase order and determine that the chips will be used for military applications.

The Defense Department report concludes that their suppliers face a major microchip supply problem that “threatens the security and integrity of classified and sensitive circuit design information … and the correct functioning of electronic systems.”

Read today’s related column from Joseph Farah: “Has America gone stark, raving bonkers?”

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