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Processor Hardware Security Vulnerabilities and their Detection by Unique Program Execution Checking

Processor Hardware Security Vulnerabilities and their Detection by Unique Program Execution Checking
Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 2:00pm
Gates 304
Wolfgang Kunz (Technische Universität Kaiserslautern)
Abstract / Description: 

Recent discovery of security attacks in advanced processors, known as Spectre and Meltdown, has resulted in high public alertness about security of hardware. The root cause of these attacks is information leakage across covert channels that reveal secret data without any explicit information flow between the secret and the attacker. Many sources believe that such covert channels are intrinsic to highly advanced processor architectures based on speculation and out-of-order execution, suggesting that such security risks can be avoided by staying away from high-end processors. This talk, however, presents research results which show that the problem is of wider scope: we present a new class of covert channel attacks which are possible in average-complexity processors with in-order pipelining, as they are mainstream in applications ranging from Internet-of-Things to Autonomous Systems. We present a new approach as a foundation for remedy against covert channels: while all previous attacks were found by clever thinking of human attackers, this talk presents a formal method called Unique Program Execution Checking which detects and locates vulnerabilities to covert channels systematically, including those to covert channels unknown so far. A detailed report on the presented research results can be found in arXiv:1812.04975, 2018.


Wolfgang Kunz received the Dipl.-Ing. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1989 and the Dr.-Ing. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Hannover, Germany, in 1992. From 1993 to 1998, he was with Max Planck Society, Fault-Tolerant Computing Group at the University of Potsdam, Germany. From 1998 to 2001 he was a professor of Com­puter Science at the University of Frankfurt/Main. Since 2001 he is a professor at the Depart­ment of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Technische Universität Kaisers­lautern.

Wolfgang Kunz conducts research in the area of System-on-Chip design and verification and has been collaborating with several industrial partners including AbsInt, Alcatel-Lucent, Audi, Bosch, IBM, Infineon, OneSpin Solutions and XILINX. For his research activities Wolfgang Kunz has received several awards including the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Science Award and the Award of the German IT Society. Wolfgang Kunz is a Fellow of