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Analog Malicious Hardware
November 12, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
For November’s PWL, we have a downright spooky hardware security paper, presented by Emily Bragg. In the very first PWL, I quipped that “eternal vigilance is the price of not fabbing your own chips” — now Emily proves that that’s actually true!
You may recognize Emily from a talk last year on the Spectre and Meltdown attacks – she has a knack for making down-to-the-metal hardware topics understandable and enjoyable for those of us who tend to live in the realm of idealized code. No small feat!
Hardware security straddles the line between analog and digital, but `A2: Analog Malicious Hardware` is a proof of concept that uses a single digital component that act as a capacitor which switches the processor into privileged mode when fully charged. The charge then drains and the guilty cell is invisible to all once more. Given that more and more fabrication is outsourced (no one wants to set up their own multi-billion-dollar fab), this kind of exploit will only have more opportunities in the future.
Join for a trip down the stack to see how this kind of exploit gets added and how it can (easily) get past anyone looking. The actual exploit is elegantly simple, so expect a lot of background information on the general design flow for processors. And if you’re just asking “what is this analog talk doing in my peaceful digital world”, you’ll learn a bit more about the frustrating physical realities considered during digital design!
See you at PWL!