IBM Research Alliance Has Figured Out How To Make 5nm Chips

IBM, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung said Monday that they have found a way to make thinner transistors, which should enable them to pack 30 billion switches onto a microprocessor chip the size of a fingernail. The tech industry has been fueled for decades by the ability of chipmakers to shoehorn ever smaller, faster transistors into the chips that power laptops, servers, and mobile devices. But industry watchers have worried lately that technology was pushing the limits of Moore’s Law — a prediction made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 that chips could double in power every two years or less. From a report: Today’s chips are built with transistors whose dimensions measure 10 nanometers, which means about 1,000 fit end-to-end across the diameter of a human hair. The next generation will shrink that dimension to 7nm, and the IBM-Samsung development goes one generation beyond that to 5nm. That means transistors can be packed four times as densely on a chip compared with today’s technology. “A nanosheet-based 5nm chip will deliver performance and power, together with density,” said Huiming Bu, IBM’s director of silicon integration and device research. Take all those numbers with a nanograin of salt, though, because chipmakers no longer agree on what exactly they’re measuring about transistors. And there’s also a long road between this research announcement and actual commercial manufacturing. IBM believes this new process won’t cost any more than chips with today’s transistor designs, but its approach requires an expensive shift that chipmakers have put off for years: the use of extreme ultraviolet light to etch chip features onto silicon wafers.

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Intel Patches Remote Execution Hole That’s Been Hidden In Its Chips Since 2008

Chris Williams reports via The Register: Intel processor chipsets have, for roughly the past nine years, harbored a security flaw that can be exploited to remotely control and infect vulnerable systems with virtually undetectable spyware and other malicious code. Specifically, the bug is in Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT), Standard Manageability (ISM) and Small Business Technology (SBT) firmware versions 6 to 11.6. According to Chipzilla, the security hole allows “an unprivileged attacker to gain control of the manageability features provided by these products.” That means hackers exploiting the flaw can silently snoop on a vulnerable machine’s users, make changes to files and read them, install rootkits and other malware, and so on. This is possible across the network, or with local access. These management features have been available in various Intel chipsets for years, starting with the Nehalem Core i7 in 2008, all the way up to Kaby Lake Core parts in 2017. According to Intel today, this critical security vulnerability, labeled CVE-2017-5689, was found and reported in March by Maksim Malyutin at Embedi. To get the patch to close the hole, you’ll have to pester your machine’s manufacturer for a firmware update, or try the mitigations here. These updates are hoped to arrive within the next few weeks.

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MIAOW Open Source GPU Debuts At Hot Chips

alexvoica writes: The first general-purpose graphics processor (GPGPU) now available as open-source RTL was unveiled at the Hot Chips event. Although the GPGPU is in an early and relatively crude stage, it is another piece of an emerging open-source hardware platform, said Karu Sankaralingam, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sankaralingam led the team that designed the Many-core Integrated Accelerator of Wisconsin (MIAOW). A 12-person team developed the MIAOW core in 36 months. Their goal was simply to create a functional GPGPU without setting any specific area, frequency, power or performance goals. The resulting GPGPU uses just 95 instructions and 32 compute units in its current design. It only supports single-precision operations. Students are now adding a graphics pipeline to the design, a job expected to take about six months.

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Researcher Exploits 18-Year-Old Design Flaw To Compromise X86 Chips

jfruh writes: Security researcher Christopher Domas has demonstrated a method of installing a rootkit in a PC’s firmware that exploits a feature built into every x86 chip manufactured since 1997. The rootkit infects the processor’s System Management Mode, and could be used to wipe the UEFI or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldnt help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure.

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Replacing Silicon With Gallium Nitrade In Chips Could Reduce Energy Use By 20%

Mickeycaskill writes: Cambridge Electronics Inc (CEI), formed of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claim semiconductors made of gallium nitride (GaN) could reduce the power consumption of data centers and consumer electronics by 20 percent by 2025. CEI has revealed a range of GaN transistors and power electronic circuits that have just one tenth of the resistance of silicon, resulting in much higher energy efficiency. The company claims to have overcome previous barriers to adoption such as safety concerns and expense through new manufacturing techniques. “Basically, we are fabricating our advanced GaN transistors and circuits in conventional silicon foundries, at the cost of silicon. The cost is the same, but the performance of the new devices is 100 times better,” Cambridge Electronics researcher Bin Lu said.

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