Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How safe is your swipe? Thinking like hackers, programmers find security loopholes in 'secure' microchips

Date:
September 27, 2010
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
Researchers in Israel have developed an innovative way of extracting information from chip technology. By combining modern cryptology methods with constraint programming -- an area of computer science designed to solve a series of complex equations -- the researchers were able to extract more information from secure chips.

Researchers have developed an innovative way of extracting information from chip technology by combining modern cryptology methods with constraint programming.
Credit: iStockphoto

Used in a variety of products from credit cards to satellite televisions, secure chips are designed to keep encoded data safe. But hackers continue to develop methods to crack the chips' security codes and access the information within.

Thinking like hackers, Prof. Avishai Wool and his Ph.D. student Yossi Oren of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering have developed an innovative way of extracting information from chip technology. By combining modern cryptology methods with constraint programming -- an area of computer science designed to solve a series of complex equations -- Prof. Wool and Oren were able to extract more information from secure chips. Their research, which could lead to important new advances in computer security, was recently presented at the 12th Workshop on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems (CHES) in Santa Barbara, CA.

Prof. Wool explains that cryptologists like himself try to stay one step ahead of attackers by thinking the way they do. "Companies need to know how secure their chip is, and how it can be cracked," he explains. "They need to know what they're up against."

Blocking out the "noise"

According to the researchers, the Achilles-heel of contemporary secure chips can be found in the chip's power supply. When a chip is in use, says Prof. Wool, it employs a miniscule amount of power. But the amount of this power, and how it fluctuates, depends on the kind of information the chip contains. By measuring the power fluctuations with an oscilloscope, a standard piece of lab equipment, and analyzing the data using appropriate algorithms, a potential hacker could decipher the information that the chip contains.

But extracting information in this way, through what the researchers call a "side channel," can be complex. When you do a power trace, says Prof. Wool, there is a lot of "noise" -- inaccuracies that result from the different activities the chip is doing at the time. He and Oren have now identified a method for blocking out the "noise" that has proved to be more effective than previous methods.

When applied to information gathered from a power source, a computer program like the one Prof. Wool and Oren have created can sort through this "noise" to deliver a more accurate analysis of a chip's secret contents. Their program is based in "constraint programming" -- the same computer programming approach used for complex scheduling programs like those used in the travel industry.

Knowing your enemy

No chip can be 100% secure, Prof. Wool admits. But he also stresses that it's important to explore the boundaries of how secure information can be extracted from these chips. An attacker could have access to a variety of computer technologies and equipment -- so researchers need to know the type of resources required to break a code, explains Prof. Wool. He has provided information to U.S. passport authorities on how to make the chips in passports more secure.

"We need to think like the attackers," he says, "in order to raise the bar against them."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "How safe is your swipe? Thinking like hackers, programmers find security loopholes in 'secure' microchips." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100920123914.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2010, September 27). How safe is your swipe? Thinking like hackers, programmers find security loopholes in 'secure' microchips. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100920123914.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "How safe is your swipe? Thinking like hackers, programmers find security loopholes in 'secure' microchips." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100920123914.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Google's Self-Driving Car Still Has Many Flaws

Google's Self-Driving Car Still Has Many Flaws

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) You've seen a lot of Google's self-driving car, but that doesn't mean it's coming soon. A new report says the vehicle is nowhere near road ready. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple's Rumored iWatch Could Cost $400

Apple's Rumored iWatch Could Cost $400

Newsy (Aug. 31, 2014) Apple is expected to charge a premium for its still-rumored wearable device. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazon Chases Netflix And HBO With Five New Pilots

Amazon Chases Netflix And HBO With Five New Pilots

Newsy (Aug. 31, 2014) Amazon has released another batch of five pilots, allowing viewers to vote on which shows will get full seasons on the company's streaming service. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple Wants Your iPhone To Become Your Wallet

Apple Wants Your iPhone To Become Your Wallet

Newsy (Aug. 31, 2014) Apple might soon announce a feature that would allow iPhones to act as a credit card when making payments in physical stores. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins