250 Hutchison Rd, Rochester, NY 14620

Critical Hardware Towards Software Security Enforcement

Deployed systems go through large arrays of security verification and threat mitigation techniques to operate securely in the field. Fully securing all layers of a deployed system is becoming insurmountable, since attackers have a large attack surface to threaten our secure systems. In this work, we reason about nation-state attackers that have tremendous resources at their disposal to maliciously affect hardware supply chains.

Conventional hardware security measures to mitigate threats from hardware typically reason about security implemented in hardware, such as cryptographic cores, or trusted execution engines.  In this dissertation we expose a new threat of hardware attacks that threaten security in software. We focus on the interaction between security policies enforced by compilers and threatened by unsafe hardware. We discuss challenges that arise from disjoint system design phases and the semantic gaps between system abstraction points like the ISA and microarchitectural specifications. We begin with insights from work that studies the usage of compilers towards mitigating threats from hardware-design bugs. These insights lead to designs for trojans that can attack a wide variety of programs due to the prevalence of compiler-injected run-time checks in safe programs. Finally, we conclude by analyzing hardware designs within the context of software-enforced security to accurately identify security-critical hardware to preempt the placement of hardware trojans.

Advisor: Prof. John Criswell (Computer Science) 

Committee: Prof. Sreepathi Pai (Computer Science), Prof. Chen Ding (Computer Science),

Prof. Sandhya Dwarkadas (Computer Science)

Prof. Selcuk Kose (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Chair: Michael Huang (Electrical and Computer Engineering)  

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  • Yumeng He

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