Researchers develop an algorithm that defends against side-channel attacks on hardware
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati developed an algorithm that safeguards hardware from attacks to steal data. In these attacks, hackers detect variations of power and electromagnetic radiation in electronic devices’ hardware and then use that variation to steal encrypted information.
The UC researchers recently published their work in the Institute of Engineering and Technology Journal.
The findings shape the future of hardware security in innovative and impactful ways, staples of UC’s strategic direction, Next Lives Here.
Electronic devices are more secure than ever before. Devices that used to rely on passwords now use Touch ID, or even face-recognition software. Unlocking our phones is like entering a 21st century Batcave, with high-tech security measures guarding every entry.
But protecting software is only one part of electronic security. Hardware is also susceptible to attacks.
“In general, we believe that because we write secure software, we can secure everything,” said University of Wyoming assistant professor Mike Borowczak, Ph.D., who graduated from UC. He and his advisor, UC professor Ranga Vemuri, Ph.D., led the project.
“Regardless of how secure you make your software, if your hardware leaks information, you can basically bypass all those security mechanisms,” Borowczak said.
Devices such as remote car keys, cable boxes and even credit card chips are all vulnerable to hardware attacks, mostly because of their design. These devices are small and lightweight and typically operate on minimal power. Engineers optimize designs, so the devices can work within these low-power constraints.
“The problem is if you try to absolutely minimize all the time, you’re basically selectively optimizing,” said Borowczak. “You’re optimizing for speed, power, area and cost, but you’re taking a hit on security.”
Regardless of how secure you make your software, if your hardware leaks information, you can basically bypass all those security mechanisms.
Mike Borowczak,University of Wyoming assistant professor, former UC Ph.D. student
Here’s how a device becomes vulnerable to attacks: When something like a cable box turns on, it decodes and encodes specific manufacturer information tied to its security. This decoding and encoding process draws more power and emits more electromagnetic radiation than when all of the other functions are on. Over time, these variations in power and radiation create a pattern unique to that cable box, and that unique signature is exactly what hackers are looking for.
“If you could steal information from something like a DVR early on, you could basically use it to reverse engineer and figure out how the decryption was happening,” Borowczak said.
And hackers don’t need physical access to a device to take this information. Attackers can remotely detect frequencies in car keys and break into a car from more than 100 yards away.
We’ve basically equalized the amount of power consumed across all the cycles, whereby even if attackers have power measurements, they can’t do anything with that information.
Ranga Vemuri,UC professor
To secure the hardware in these devices, Vemuri and Borowczak went back to square one: the device’s design.
Borowczak and Vemuri aim to restructure their design and code them in a way that doesn’t leak information. To do this, they developed an algorithm to design more secure hardware.
“You take the design specification and restructure it at an algorithmic level, so that the algorithm, no matter how it is implemented, draws the same amount of power in every cycle,” Vemuri said. “We’ve basically equalized the amount of power consumed across all the cycles, whereby even if attackers have power measurements, they can’t do anything with that information.”
What’s left is a more secure device with a more automated design. Rather than manually securing each hardware component, the algorithm automates the process. On top of that, a device created using this algorithm only uses about 5 percent more power than an insecure device, making the work commercially viable.
Software and hardware security is an ongoing game of cat and mouse: As security technologies improve, hackers eventually find ways around these barriers. Hardware security is further complicated by the expanding network of devices and their interactivity, also known as the Internet of Things.
Innovative research, like the work by Vemuri and Borowczak, can give people an extra layer of safety and security in this future of connected devices.
The Latest on: Hardware security
via Google News
The Latest on: Hardware security
- Intel CSME flaw: 5 years of chips have a truly ominous, unfixable flawon March 6, 2020 at 9:21 am
This week a report showed an “unfixable” flaw in the Intel Converged Security and Management Engine (CSME) in Intel chips. This flaw exists in essentially every piece of Intel-released silicon ...
- 'Unfixable' hole in Intel ROM exposes all but latest chips to attack, researchers sayon March 6, 2020 at 7:22 am
The vulnerability was found in the ROM of the Intel Converged Security and Management Engine (CSME), Mark Ermolov, Positive Technologies' lead specialist of OS and hardware security, said in a ...
- Intel CSME flaw is unpatchable, researchers warnon March 5, 2020 at 2:53 pm
Last May, Intel released firmware patches for vulnerabilities affecting several hardware security features in its chipsets that are used for digital rights management, device attestation ...
- 5 years of Intel CPUs and chipsets have a concerning flaw that’s unfixableon March 5, 2020 at 1:48 pm
“Intel was notified of a vulnerability potentially affecting the Intel Converged Security Management Engine in which an unauthorized user with specialized hardware and physical access may be ...
- Hardware Security Module Market: Know Technology Exploding in Popularityon March 5, 2020 at 1:24 pm
This intelligence report provides a comprehensive analysis of the Hardware Security Module Market. This includes Investigation of past progress, ongoing market scenarios, and future prospects. Data ...
- Intel To Expand SGX Support For Xeon, Extend Hardware Security Capabilitieson February 27, 2020 at 12:21 pm
By Dylan Martin February 27, 2020, 03:12 PM EST Intel is promising greater hardware security capabilities for the company's Xeon server processors that include full memory encryption and virtual ...
- What Your Company Needs to Know About Hardware Supply Chain Securityon February 27, 2020 at 7:07 am
While developing and implementing a supply chain security program can be daunting, it should be the first item on your company's to-do list — with an emphasis on hardware security, which is ...
- How to lock down your Google Account using hardware security keys, or your iPhone or Android smartphoneon February 27, 2020 at 5:32 am
The process takes about 15 minutes, assuming you already have the security keys you need. Otherwise, you'll need to wait for them to arrive. This isn't something to do when you're in a rush ...
- CWE list now includes hardware security weaknesseson February 27, 2020 at 3:24 am
The Mitre Corporation has released version 4.0 of the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) list, which has been expanded to include hardware security weaknesses. The Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE ...
- Why IoT Solutions Need Hardware-Based Securityon February 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm
A software-based approach to IoT security implementation can no longer meet acceptable levels of assurance and protection. A hardware-based approach to security is now considered an essential element ...
via Bing News