New self-destructing chip offers James Bond-like solution to security

14 Sep 201516 Shares

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Self-destructing image via IDC/Martyn Williams

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Almost like something from a James Bond film, a new chip developed by researchers from Xerox has been shown to have the ability to self-destruct on command, offering a whole new field of cybersecurity measures.

The self-destructing chip will be showcased as part of the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) event, Wait, What?, as part of its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) programme.

The concept, it seems, is quite simple, in that the researchers from the Xerox division PARC showed how, by using the same Gorilla Glass found in most smartphones, a shattering chip could be created rather than using traditional silicon, plastic and metal.

In the event of a breach or major security issue, a command is sent to the chip to self-destruct and, approximately 10 seconds later, the chip explodes in a shatter of glass.

According to PCWorld.com, what causes the chip to explode is the small resistor placed within it, which can be heated to a high enough temperature to cause it to shatter.

Not only that, but after it has shattered the smaller pieces will continue to break down even further for a few more seconds.

“We take the glass and we ion-exchange temper it to build in stress,” said one of the senior researchers at PARC, Gregory Whiting. “What you get is glass that, because it’s heavily stressed, breaks it fragments into tiny little pieces.”

In terms of its applications, the PARC team has said that security is the obvious angle in which this chip is geared, with a particular emphasis on perhaps using it as a storage device for encryption keys.

If it should fall into the wrong hands, a radio signal could be sent to the chip to begin the heating process, causing it to shatter.

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com