On Apr 24, 2008, at 7:58 PM, Jacob Appelbaum wrote:

If we could convince (this is the hard part) companies to publish what
they think their chips should look like, we'd have a starting point.

I would think that it also helps if a company publishes the source code and complete verification tools for their chips, such as Sun has done with the Ultrasparc T2 under the GPL.

I was excited about this, and also about the fact that the T2 came with extremely efficient crypto implementations, until I read this bizarre comment in the news:

"When the UltraSPARC T2 specifications are released Tuesday, Mehta said the company plans on releasing most of the source code, including the designs for the logic gate circuitry and the test suites. The one part of the source code that Sun can not release are the algorithms approved by the National Security Agency as part of the chip's cryptographic accelerations units."

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Linux-and-Open-Source/Sun-Brings-Niagara-2- Chip-to-Open-Source/

I investigated and sure enough the crypto parts of the T2 have all been stubbed out of the source (all of them, not just "algorithms approved by the NSA", whatever that means).

I sent e-mails inquiring about this to two journalists (the author of that article -- Scott Ferguson -- and noted cryptosecuritylibertarian gadfly Declan McCullagh) and three Sun employees, including Shrenik Mehta (quoted above), the "open sparc community support" e-mail address, and the Sun "open source ombudsman", Simon Phipps. None of them ever wrote back.

This experience rather dampened my enthusiasm about relying on T2 hardware as a higher-assurance, but still pretty commodified, crypto implementation.



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