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NVIDIA’s Tegra Processors Exposed to Hardware Security Flaw

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NVIDIA’s Tegra exposed to a security flaw 

The discovery of the Spectre and Meltdown hardware flaws in Intel’s, ARM’s, and Advanced Micro Devices’ chips caught security researchers’ attention. In April, a hardware flaw, Fusée Gelée, was discovered in NVIDIA’s (NVDA) Tegra X1 SoC (system-on-chip). Tegra X1 powers Shield devices, Alphabet’s (GOOG) Pixel C tablet, Nintendo’s Switch game console, and several automakers’ infotainment and self-driving systems.

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Fusée Gelée exploits Tegra X1’s read-only memory when the device boots up in recovery mode and checks for connected USB devices. The hardware flaw allows connected devices to deliver up to 65,535 bytes of data that can be executed without question. This data is sufficient for a hacker to jailbreak the device and install custom software to run emulators or play pirated games. This hardware flaw cannot be fixed with software.

NVIDIA’s response

NVIDIA acknowledged the security flaw and noted that older Tegra processors might also be affected. However, the chip company assured that the flaw does not attract Internet-based attacked as devices cannot be hacked remotely. Hackers need physical access to the hardware to install the exploit.

Even a remote possibility of Tegra processors being vulnerable to security flaws could make NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle project more challenging, especially considering the fatal accident involving an Uber driverless car in March.

NVIDIA’s response eased concerns of the possibility of remotely hijacked vehicles. The company also stated that its new Tegra X2 and Xavier SoCs are not exposed to Fusée Gelée.

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Impact of Fusée Gelée on NVIDIA

There were concerns that the discovery of the Fusée Gelée flaw would see NVIDIA lose business from Nintendo, which is very strict about security breaches. However, some analysts believe that the two companies will work together to resolve the exploit and may result in NVIDIA building a custom Tegra X2 for Nintendo’s next Switch consoles.

NVIDIA earned 16% of its revenue, or $1.3 billion, from Tegra in calendar 2017. The chipmaker has not reported Nintendo’s contribution to Tegra revenue but Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Vivek Arya estimates that NVIDIA earned 40% of its Tegra revenue, or $660 million, from Nintendo in 2017.

His estimates were based on the following calculation: VGChartz estimates show that Nintendo sold 16.5 million Switch game consoles in one year and NVIDIA earns $40 in revenue for each Tegra X1 chip sold to Nintendo. Nintendo expects to sell 37 million Switch consoles by April 2019, showing Tegra’s growing dependence on Nintendo. Next, we’ll look at analysts’ views on NVIDIA.

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