Heartbleed: Serious Security Vulnerability

Serious Wake-up Call

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors, foreword by Kevin Morris

Imagine if you woke up one morning, and found out that Walmart was now selling a device for $5 that could easily and instantly open almost any deadbolt lock. That’s right - the kind of lock that is supposed to give “extra protection” to just about every door on earth. That’s the magnitude of security problem posed by the Heartbleed Bug.

Contributing columnist Bruce Kleinman wrote the first half of this article and posted it to his “From Silicon Valley” blog on April 6, 2014. The timing of the post was a remarkable coincidence: just 36 hours before the Heartbleed Bug started making headlines.

As the creators of technology, we engineers need to re-think our commitment to security and safety. The systems we design don’t just earn us money – they are often trusted to protect people’s lives, privacy, and assets. This is a solemn responsibility that is all too often overlooked or given short shrift in our ongoing race to get timing closure, first silicon, working prototypes, and volume shipments.

 

Testing Out the Rules

Sage DA Automates Design Rule Test Creation

by Bryon Moyer

It wasn’t too long ago that we took a look at a new tool from Sage DA that could be used to create design rules in an automated fashion so that the resulting rules will be clean and consistent. It also provided a way to iron out any ambiguities in a design rule manual.

For those of you less deeply embedded in this space, what we’re talking about here is the ability to check a new chip design’s layout to make sure it doesn’t violate manufacturing rules. In order to be able to do that, we need to have a set of rules to test whether a specific IC meets the constraints of a given process. That way you ensure that no lines are too thin or spaces too narrow. (Oi, if only it were that simple.)

 

Hard Hats in Place

EELive! Part 2: Safety-Critical Systems

by Amelia Dalton

On the heels of Michael Barr’s keynote at EELive this year - "KILLER APPS: Embedded Software's Greatest Hit Jobs," this week's Fish Fry takes a closer look at embedded software for safety-critical systems. At the helm is Jim McElroy - VP at LDRA. Jim and I discuss the challenges of designing safety-critical embedded systems, and Jim explains where LDRA fits into the embedded software ecosystem. He also gives us the low down on why Boston Baked Beans get a bad wrap. (Spoiler: According to Jim, they totally deserve it.) I also give everyone a sneak peek at EE Journal’s brand new “On the Scene" video blog, and I lay out my revolutionary plans to restore the Embedded Systems Conference to its former glory. (Second Spoiler: They absolutely will not use my idea.)

 

New Approaches to Old Problems

A Hot DATE in Dresden

by Dick Selwood

The Dresden conference centre was designed to represent a stark modern contrast to the restored Baroque buildings of the old town of Dresden. For some reason, the architects decided to build a curved building with one floor on a slope, cutting through other, flat, floors. The entrance is up a long flight of stairs, exposed to the wind and rain blowing across the river Elbe. The conference rooms are all provided with wonderful glass walls overlooking the river, which have to be blacked out if you want to be able to see the information projected onto the screen.

However, it is the the main conference venue for Silicon Saxony, a “cluster” of high tech companies ranging from semiconductor manufacturers Global Foundries and Infineon to a wide range of supporting and related businesses: over 300 companies are part of the network. And it is where, in alternate years, the academic community engaged in EDA make their spring pilgrimage to the DATE Conference.

 

Attack of the Tiny Terrors

Microchip’s Small, Cheap PIC16 MCUs Prove There’s Life in 8-bitters

by Jim Turley

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the lab…

The chip designers at Microchip must have a lot of time on their hands. Either that, or the company keeps several design teams working in parallel. Whatever the process, these guys keep cranking out new microcontrollers faster than we can keep track of them.

Exhibit A is the new batch of 8-bit (sort of) MCUs called the PIC16something-or-other. There’s no point in trying to memorize Microchip’s part numbers because they never make any sense anyway. Like Mercedes-Benz, the company long ago passed the point where the naming system follows any rational progression. But if you’re doing a Google search, you’ll want to look up PIC16F1703 through PIC16F1719, or PIC16LF1703–19. Oh, never mind.

 

“Softly” Defined Networks

Xilinx Punches Up the Programmability

by Kevin Morris

Programmability is a powerful concept. It allows us to build a physical machine and then modify, upgrade, repurpose, repair, and evolve it - without having to alter the original physical hardware. It allows us to design one device to serve multiple purposes, with variants, upgrades, and value-added features enabled with the flip of a few bits. Programmability extends the life of equipment in the field, reduces inventory requirements, simplifies maintenance and diagnostics, and often eliminates the need to roll a service truck altogether.

In the world of networking, programmability promises these enormous benefits in the extreme. With the global bandwidth glut, network build-out has been a high-stakes, high-priority, big-revenue, full-throttle enterprise for the past three decades - and it shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. If you’re designing network hardware, you already know the drill. You design around the bleeding-edge of what’s possible with current hardware, often against standards that are still in flux, in a race against other companies’ engineering teams that are just as daring and terrified as you are.

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