Prof. Sethumadhavan Wins CAREER Award
Simha Sethumadhavan has won a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation that will help fund his ongoing research project “Trustworthy Hardware from Untrustworthy Components”.
Sethumadhavan (right), an assistant professor of Computer Science and a computer hardware and security expert, is director of the Computer Architecture and Security Technology Lab at Columbia Engineering.
The CAREER Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty, who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Sethumadhavan’s research investigates techniques to build trustworthy hardware systems even with untrustworthy, malicious hardware components.
“A key insight used in this study is that while a large number of digital backdoor implementations are feasible, they can be all classified into four simple categories with unique behavioral characteristics that can be leveraged to thwart backdoors,” Sethumadhavan writes in his abstract.
“First, digital backdoors can only be switched on in only two ways: they must turn-on after certain amount of time or by specially crafted inputs. This classification is complete because time and data are the only two ways a digital system can change.”
Sethumadhavan says that after a backdoor is switched on it can impact the infested hardware component in only two ways: it can cause the hardware component to produce extraneous outputs or corrupt existing outputs.
“Backdoor detection techniques monitor the outputs of hardware units for anomalous behavior while protection techniques scramble inputs making it infeasible for the backdoor to be triggered at runtime."
Hardening both the inputs and outputs of a hardware module against backdoors provides comprehensive protection and provides a strong basis, for the first time, to certify digital hardware to be free of backdoors.
“The ability to certify hardware to be backdoor free can significantly enhance the state of trustworthy computing.”
Posted:Mar 24 2011