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Attacking and Defending Unreliable Hardware

Researcher: Onur Mutlu

Research Area: Trustworthy Computing Platforms and Devices

Cross Cutting Thrusts: Threat Analysis and Modeling | Next Generation Threat Prediction and Response


Scope: Processor and memory hardware is inherently unreliable: it contains design bugs, it wears out, and it is subject to transient bit flips. All of these cause security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by diligent attackers to take over otherwise secure systems. In addition, some existing hardware algorithms are not robust in the presence of multiple threads. This lack of robustness causes denial of service vulnerabilities. The goals of this project are 1) to devise attacks exploiting such security vulnerabilities and 2) develop hardware based solutions to prevent such attacks.

Outcomes: Demonstration of novel attacks that exploit algorithmic vulnerabilities in multiple thread management, processor design bugs, memory errors in new memory technologies (phase change memory), and wear out induced hardware errors. Development of novel hardware techniques to overcome such attacks. Conference papers in top architecture and security conferences. FPGA prototypes of techniques.