Ben Krasnow’s DIY SEM and secure hardware
Extreme hardware hacker Ben Krasnow has come up with another extremely clever creation – a homemade scanning electron microscope. You can find an overview of this project in this video:
The total cost of this project was about $1,500. The image quality isn't quite what you'd expect from the commercial models, but it's also over a factor of 1,000 cheaper. I seem to recall that the last SEM that I used cost about $2.1 million, and that was more than a few years ago.
And because a SEM is a great tool for hackers to use to attack secure microprocessors, like the ones that you find in smart cards, it certainly looks like it's now not too hard for clever hackers to build the tools that they need to hack secure hardware instead of buying them.
That's assumes that they're as clever as Krasnow, of course.
But it certainly looks like sophisticated attacks against secure hardware are getting much easier and cheaper to carry out. Before too long, it might even be reasonable to start worrying about exactly what level of protection they're actually providing.