Academic Commons

Theses Doctoral

Producing Trustworthy Hardware Using Untrusted Components, Personnel and Resources

Waksman, Adam

Computer security is a full-system property, and attackers will always
go after the weakest link in a system. In modern computer systems,
the hardware supply chain is an obvious and vulnerable point of
attack. The ever-increasing complexity of hardware systems, along with
the globalization of the hardware supply chain, has made it unreasonable
to trust hardware. Hardware-based attacks, known as backdoors, are easy
to implement and can undermine the security of systems built on top of
compromised hardware. Operating systems and other software can only be
secure if they can trust the underlying hardware systems.
The full supply chain for creating hardware includes multiple processes,
which are often addressed in disparate threads of research, but which we
consider as one unified process. On the front-end side, there is the soft
design of hardware, along with validation and synthesis, to ultimately
create a netlist, the document that defines the physical layout of
hardware. On the back-end side, there is a physical fabrication process,
where a chip is produced at a foundry from a supplied netlist, followed
in some cases by post-fabrication testing. Producing a trustworthy chip
means securing the process from the early design stages through to the
post-fabrication tests.
We propose, implement and analyze a series of methods for making
the hardware supply chain resilient against a wide array of known and
possible attacks. These methods allow for the design and fabrication of
hardware using untrustworthy personnel, designs, tools and resources,
while protecting the final product from large classes of attacks, some
known previously and some discovered and taxonomized in this work.
The overarching idea in this work is to take a full-process view of
the hardware supply chain. We begin by securing the hardware design and
synthesis processes uses a defense-in-depth approach. We combine this
work with foundry-side techniques to prevent malicious modifications
and counterfeiting, and finally apply novel attestation techniques to
ensure that hardware is trustworthy when it reaches users.
For our design-side security approach, we use defense-in-depth
because in practice, any security method can potentially subverted, and
defense-in-depth is the best way to handle that assumption. Our approach
involves three independent steps. The first is a functional analysis
tool (called FANCI), applied statically to designs during the coding and
validation stages to remove any malicious circuits. The second step is
to include physical security circuits that operate at runtime. These
circuits, which we call trigger obfuscation circuits, scramble data at
the microarchitectural level so that any hardware backdoors remaining in
the design cannot be triggered at runtime. The third and final step is to
include a runtime monitoring system that detects any backdoor payloads
that might have been achieved despite the previous two steps. We design
two different versions of this monitoring system. The first, TrustNet, is
extremely lightweight and protects against an important class of attacks
called emitter backdoors. The second, DataWatch, is slightly more heavyweight
(though still efficient and low overhead) that can catch a wider variety
of attacks and can be adapted to protect against nearly any type of
digital payload. We taxonomize the types of attacks that are possible
against each of the three steps of our defense-in-depth system and show
that each defense provides strong coverage with low (or negligible)
overheads to performance, area and power consumption.
For our foundry-side security approach, we develop the first foundry-side
defense system that is aware of design-side security. We create a
power-based side-channel, called a beacon. This beacon is essentially a
benign backdoor. It can be turned on by a special key (not provided to
the foundry), allowing for security attestation during post-fabrication
testing. By designing this beacon into the design itself, the beacon
requires neither keys nor storage, and as such exists in the final chip
purely by virtue of existing in the netlist. We further obfuscate the
netlist itself, rendering the task of reverse engineering the beacon
(for a foundry-side adversary) intractable. Both the inclusion of the
beacon and the obfuscation process add little to area and power costs
and have no impact on performance.
All together, these methods provide a foundation on which hardware
security can be developed and enhanced. They are low overhead and
practical, making them suitable for inclusion in next generation
hardware. Moving forward, the criticality of having trustworthy hardware
can only increase. Ensuring that the hardware supply chain can be trusted
in the face of sophisticated adversaries is vital. Both hardware design
and hardware fabrication are increasingly international processes, and
we believe continuing with this unified approach is the correct path
for future research. In order for companies and governments to place
trust in mission-critical hardware, it is necessary for hardware to be
certified as secure and trustworthy. The methods we propose can be the
first steps toward making this certification a reality.



  • thumnail for Waksman_columbia_0054D_11944.pdf Waksman_columbia_0054D_11944.pdf binary/octet-stream 3.4 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Thesis Advisors
Sethumadhavan, Simha
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.