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April 22-25, 2003, Santa Clara -Explore. Invent. Connect.


Breaking the Hardware Barrier
Andrew Huang, Chumby Industries

Track: Emerging Technology Tutorial
Date: Tuesday, April 22
Time: 1:30pm - 5:00pm
Location: Winchester

In the days of the PDP-8 and the Apple-II, hackers had direct access to the core logic of a computer. The advent of highly integrated chipsets and fine-pitch assembly technology in the early 90’s made computer hardware inaccessible to all but the most serious hardware hackers. Now, there is a perception in many communities, in particular some PC hardware security circles, that hardware is inviolate and immutable.

What most people do not realize is that hardware hacking has also been riding the Moore’s law curve, just a few years delayed. As technology progresses, tools have progressed and the cost of basic hardware hacking staples have fallen drastically. In addition, the dropping costs of PC hardware versus the mounting risks and costs of System-on-a-Chip design has stabilized the state-of-the-practice in consumer hardware just long enough for hardware hacking technologies to catch up.

Huang presents the latest emerging trends in hardware hacking, including:

  • The $50 full-custom PC board
  • Your very own ASIC for $10
  • Probing and soldering techniques for modern circuit boards
  • Advanced techniques for probing and patching chips
  • Leveraging the design-for-manufacturability methodology for hardware hacking
  • Myths and misconceptions about mass producing hardware modifications
  • Ramifications for the hardware security community

Huang’s tutorial conclude with demonstrations of using reconfigurable hardware technology. Attendees with a Windows laptop can install Xilinx's free WebPack software, and follow along with the demonstration and test their design in hardware at the conclusion of the session.

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