How Hardware Can Help Meet Security Challenges

Electrical and Computer Engineering
NYU Community Event

Speaker: Professor Srini Devadas

Faculty Host: Professor Ramesh Karri


Computer security is largely considered a software problem. However, there are many ways that security challenges can be met through innovative hardware design. For example, network processors that monitor packets at high speeds help protect servers from attacks. In this talk, I will focus on how hardware can help secure systems that are under physical as well as computational attack. Physical Unclonable Functions (PUFs) are a tamper resistant way of establishing shared secrets with a physical device.  They rely on the inevitable manufacturing variations between devices to produce an identity for a device. This identity is unclonable, and in some cases is even manufacturer resistant (i.e., it is impossible to produce devices that have the same identity).  We describe applications of PUFs, including authentication of individual integrated circuits such as FPGAs and RFIDs, and the design of a PUF-enabled processor that generates its public/private key pair on power-up so its private key is never left exposed in (on-chip or off-chip) non-volatile storage.  It is capable of a broad range of cryptographic functionality, including certified execution of programs.  Finally, by running a virtual machine on a secure processor we have built an attachable trusted module called a Trusted Execution Module (TEM) that does not need to be securely bound to its host (unlike the TPM) and which does not trust the authors of the programs it runs (unlike a smart card).

About the Speaker

Srini Devadas is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and has been on the faculty of MIT since 1988.  He has been serving as the associate head of computer science since 2005. Devadas has worked in the areas of computer-aided design, testing, formal verification, compilers for embedded processors, computer architecture and computer security, and has co-authored numerous papers and books in these areas.  Devadas was elected a Fellow of the IEEE in 1998.