Technology
9:24 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Department of Defense Gives UConn Millions For Hardware Security

Nanoscale devices are used in everything from your cell phone to air traffic control computers.

April was all about cybersecurity: fixes for the so-called "Heartbleed" bug, alerts about exploits in Internet Explorer, and a now, a security initiative spearheaded by UConn.

You may have an antivirus program on your computer. You may even encrypt your web searches, and, if you're really geeky, have two step-password verification on your email. But here's something you probably haven't thought about protecting from attack: the stuff inside your computer. The actual hardware.

"As someone who has designed chips, tested chips, fabricated chips, we’ve always looked at power, performance, and reliability as our primary parameters," said Mark Tehranipoor, director of UConn's Center for Hardware Assurance, Security and Engineering. "I think this is the first time that a group of researchers from UConn, Rice, and [the University of Maryland] will get together and for the next five years will discuss security at the same level."

Those three schools just received a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to study security for really small hardware, nanoscale devices, that are used in everything from your cell phone to air traffic control computers.

"These are hardware security problems," Tehranipoor said. "[It's] the type of hardware like integrated circuits that we normally assume are fine. This is the hardware underlying any information system we have today. If they are being compromised, then regardless of how well the software is doing, it would not make any difference. The security issue is going to be there."

Tehranipoor said he hopes to use a lot of this grant money to fund security studies for the actual circuits in your computers, so-called CMOS technology, that is used to construct microprocessors and other digital circuits. He'll also study security for future hardware that's being developed, but not yet available to consumers.