Before we get into this more, we want to let you know immediately that this backdoor only involves the AT88SC153/1608 and no other CryptoMemory devices.
The backdoor involvesÂ restoring anÂ EEPROM fuse with Ultra-Violet light (UV).Â Once the fuse bit has been returned to aÂ ’1′, all memory contents is permitted to be read or written in the clearÂ (unencrypted).
For those of youÂ who are unfamiliar Atmel’s CryptoMemory, they are serial non-volatile memory (EEPROM) thatÂ support a clear or secure channel of communications betweenÂ a host (typically an MCU) and theÂ memory.Â What is unique about the CryptoMemory are their capabilities in establishing the secure channel (authenticating to the host, etc).Â
Figure 1:Â AT88SC153 magnified 200x.
Figure 2:Â AT88SC1608 magnified 200x.
These device includes:
High-security Memory Including Anti-wiretapping
64-bit Authentication Protocol
Configurable Authentication Attempts Counter
Multiple Sets ofÂ Passwords
Specific Passwords for Read and Write
Password Attempts Counters
Selectable Access Rights by Zone
Figure 3:Â Commented AT88SC153.
Figure 4:Â Commented AT88SC1608.
Section 5 of the datasheet labled, “Fuses” clearly states, “Once blown, these EEPROM fuses can not be reset.“
This statement is absolutely false.Â UV light will erase the fuses back to a ’1′ state.Â Care must be used to not expose the main memory to the UV or else it too will erase itself.
We are not going to explain the details of how to use the UV light to reset the fuse.Â We have tried to contact Atmel but have not heard anything back from them.
Reading deeper into the datasheet under Table 5-1, Atmel writes, “When the fuses are all “1″s, read and write are allowed in the entire memory.“Â
As strange as it reads, they really do mean even if you have setupÂ security rules in the configuration memory, it doesn’t matter.Â The fuses override everything and all memory areas are readable in the clear without the need for authentication or encrypted channel!Â The attacker can even see what the “Secure Code”Â is (it is not given out in the public documentation, nor with samples).Â Atmel was even kind enough to leave test pads everywhere so various levels of attackers can learn (entry to expert).
Our proof of concept was tested on samples we acquired through Atmel’s website.Â Atmel offers samples to anyone however they do not give out the “Secure code” as mentioned above.Â
The secure code of the AT88SC153 samples was “$D_ $F_ $7_”.Â
The secure code of the AT88SC1608 was “$7_ $5_ $5_”.
We are not going toÂ show you the low nibble of the 3 bytes to make sure we don’t give the code out to anyone.Â This is enough proof toÂ whoever else knows this code.Â That person(s) can clearly see we know theirÂ transport code which appears to be common to all samples (e.g. All die on a waferÂ contain the same secure code until a customerÂ orders parts atÂ which time that customer receives their own secure code.).Â A person reading this cannot guess the secure code in because there are 12 bits to exhaustively search out and you only have 8 tries .
Of all the other CryptoMemory products, onlyÂ the AT88SC153/1608 has this backdoor.Â We have successfully analyzed the entire CryptoMemory product line and can say thatÂ the backdoor doesn’t exist in any other CryptoMemory part.Â None of the CryptoMemory parts are actually as “secure” as they make it seem.Â The words, “Smoke n’ Mirrors” comes to mind (It is almost always like that).Â In this particular category of CryptoMemory, there are two parts, the AT88SC153 and the larger AT88SC1608.
Thus the questions-Â
- Why has Atmel only backdoored this part (NSA for you conspiracists)?
- Who was the original intended customer supposed to be?
- Was the original intention of these devices to be used in a product that used some kind of cryptography?
- If the above was true, was this device originally intended to be a cryptographic key-vault?
All these questions come to mind because the backdoor makes it so easy to extract the contents of the device they want you to trust.Â Some ofÂ you may be familiar with the GSM A5/1 algorithm having certain bits of the key set to a fixed value.
Judging by the wording of the documentation, Atmel gives the appearance that CryptoMemory are the perfect choice for holding your most valuable secrets.
Give us your thoughts…