Feeds

'Super-secret' debugger discovered in AMD CPUs

Password-protected feature goes beyond x86

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

A hardware hacker has discovered a secret debugging feature hidden in all AMD chips made in the past decade.

The password-protected debugger came as a shock to reverse-engineers who have hungered for an on-chip mechanism for performing conditional and direct-hardware breakpoint operations. Although AMD has built the firmware-controlled feature into all chips since the Athlon XP, the company kept it a closely guarded secret that was only disclosed late last week by a hacker who goes by the name Czernobyl.

“AMD processors (Athlon XP and better) have included firmware-based debugging features that expand greatly over standard, architecturally defined capabilities of x86,” the hacker wrote. “For some reason, though, AMD has been tightly secretive about these features; hint of their existence was gained by glancing at CBID's page.”

To put a chip into developer mode, a user must first enter what amounts to a password — 9C5A203A — into the CPU's EDI register. Czernobyl was able to deduce the secret setting by brute forcing the key.

Presumably, the debugger is an internal AMD utility used during development and then turned off before shipping. Its discovery by world + dog means that everyday users may have powerful new tools to hack, debug, and reverse-engineer their hardware. Now that its existence and the instructions for turning it on are known, the real discoveries about exactly what can be done with it are sure to commence. ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.