Tower hit by cyber attack, some production disrupted

Tower Semiconductor’s IT security systems identified a security incident on some of its systems as a result of a cyber attack. The company announced that as a preventive measure, it had halted certain of its servers and proactively held operations in some of its manufacturing facilities, and has done so in a gradual, organized manner.

Tower has notified relevant authorities and is working closely with law enforcement organizations and with a team of experts, coordinated with its insurance providers, in order to recover the impacted systems as soon as possible. The Company has implemented specific measures to prevent the expansion of this event.

Tower Semiconductor provides manufacturing services for integrated circuits (ICs) in process platforms such as SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, non-imaging sensors, integrated power management and MEMS. It operates two manufacturing facilities in Israel (150mm and 200mm), two in the U.S. (200mm), and three facilities in Japan (two 200mm and one 300mm).

In September 10, Tower announced that all of its manufacturing sites are operational, targeting full capability within the next few days. “Tower is confident of the functional quality of the work in progress and production line inventories, with Company and customer data remaining protected. Due to the manufacturing disruption, the Company expects some level of impact to its third quarter results.”

Semiconductor’s Industry under Attack

Cyber attacks pose a big risk to the highly connected semiconductor’s production lines. On May, 2020, the US-based MaxLinear discovered a security incident affecting some of its systems and immediately took all systems offline. On August, 2018, TSMC, a supplier for Apple’s SoC components and a major manufacturer for Qualcomm, fell victim to a variant of the WannaCry ransomware. The infection caused the company to stop production for two days. The shutdown was believed to have cost the company roughly $250 million USD and shipment delays.

According to the Taiwanese cyber security firm CyCraft, multiple organizations along Taiwan’s high-tech ecosystem were victims of an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack , which originated in the semiconductor industry and still continues to be a threat today. “APTs are professional cyber espionage actors that typically receive direction and support from nation-states and often target organizations with high-value information, such as national defense, financial, energy, or now, the manufacturing of semiconductors.”

 

Tower Semiconductor Announced ultra-fast RF Switch

Tower Semiconductor announced a new radio frequency (RF) switch technology with record figure of merit targeting the 5G and high-performance RF switch markets. The company is engaged with multiple customers and partners to bring this technology to market for next-generation products.

This new switch technology demonstrates a record RF device figure of merit: On/Off transition times (Ron Coff) shorter than 10 femtoseconds vs. 70-100 femtoseconds in use today for the most advanced applications. The switch performs over a wide range of frequencies spanning MHz to mmWave, including the frequency bands discussed for 5G.

The switch is also nonvolatile so consumes no energy when in the on-state or off-state, making it attractive for IoT, and other power and battery sensitive applications. Tower has demonstrated the versatility of this patented technology by integrating it with other process platforms such as SiGe BiCMOS and Power CMOS.

Tower Semiconductor will be offering multi-project wafer runs (MPWs) in 2021 for select customers. This model enables new customers to experience the technology in lower costs, by sharing the wafer in production with other interested parties. The new RF switch will be presented at IMS 2020 (International Microwave Symposium).

The abstract of Tower Semiconductor’s presentation in IMS 2020 reveals more details about the new technology: Two different sized layouts of four-terminal phase-change material (PCM) RF switches fabricated in a 200 mm silicon high volume manufacturing environment. Both layouts have with a record high FCO of 25 THz. Layout-A has a RON*C_OFF values of 6.2 fs, and Layout-B has a RON*C_OFF values of 6.3 fs.

Both layouts show minimal changes to RON or actuation voltage when cycled 10 million times. Also, a Layout-A device was cycled 1 billion times, demonstrating the ability of this RF switch to be used in high endurance applications.