A group of researchers in Germany (where else -Ed) have discovered a fatal flaw in microprocessor technology that they claim could allow hackers to obtain computer users' secret data.
According to a report in Le Monde, the French daily paper, last week, a group led by German cryptology expert Jean-Pierre Seifert has discovered that chips are now more vulnerable because of the way they are manufactured to to process data more quickly.
"Security has been sacrificed for the benefit of performance," Seifert told the paper, adding that the speed of the microprocessors makes them susceptible to a technique known as Branch Prediction Analysis (PBA).
PBA is a relatively basic form of password/crypto cracking that relies on intelligently calculated, but multiple attempts, on the system being cracked.
Seifert says that, if a small piece of spyware is loaded on to the host processor, then this process can be vastly simplified, to the extent that a 512-bit key can be extracted in a few thousandths of a second.
Seifert and his team plans to reveal all, says the paper, at an encryption conference in the early part of 2007.
Researchers have long theorised on the possibility that a code - no matter how complex - can be cracked using a universal set of algorithms, but it has always been theory.
The theory was used as the basis of a plotline in the Robert Redford movie `Sneakers' a few years back.
I suspect that Mr Seifert's presentation will be closely watched by people in long dark coats and sunglasses...