MIT paints giant target on new "hack-proof" chip

Opinion: Stop calling things "hack-proof."
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

MIT researchers and Texas Instruments have developed a new radio-frequency (RFID) chip that it calls "hack-proof."

The high-security chip, if it hits mainstream adoption, could well be a game-changer that could help prevent credit card fraud (through contactless payments), for instance. That's because it sets itself apart from other RFID-chips. The chip is able to resist power-glitch attacks, which can be used to bypass limits on incorrect password entries in password-protected devices, because it comes with on-board power that is "virtually impossible to cut," according to the press release.

Surprise: MIT just painted a giant target on this chip's back. It almost begs the community to rip it to pieces.

Nothing is unhackable. Ask anyone in security circles what the most overblown term is, they'll say it's "hack-proof" or "virtually impossible to hack."

Even devices that are designed to be at the top of their security game like Silent Circle's Blackphone 2 -- an Android smartphone that's designed to protect privacy and be secure to the core -- aren't immune to hacks and attacks. Silent Circle's chief scientist Javier Aguera told me at a meeting in London last year that the phone isn't hack-proof and "doesn't pretend to be."

Security is a cat-and-mouse game. Devices have to be patched, and technologies can be altered.

The notion of "perfect security" is a nice idea and something the security community consistently strives for. But calling something "hack-proof" is a red flag to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

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