Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Computer Hardware 'Guardians' Protect Users from Undiscovered Bugs

06.10.2008
As computer processor chips grow faster and more complex, they are likely to make it to market with more design bugs. But that may be OK, according to University of Michigan researchers who have devised a system that lets chips work around all functional bugs, even those that haven't been detected.

Firms such as Intel find functional bugs by simulating different scenarios, commands and configurations that their processor might encounter. Bugs only show themselves when they're triggered by certain configurations. When firms find major bugs, they fix them. But because it would be virtually impossible to simulate all possibilities, engineers don't find all the bugs.

Buggy hardware inadvertently released to customers could fail. Short of replacing the product, there isn't much a company can do to fix the problem today.

The U-M researchers' system would eliminate this risk by building a virtual fence that prevents a chip from operating in untested configurations. The approach keeps track of all the configurations the firm did test, and loads that information onto a miniscule monitor that would be added to each processor.

The monitor, called a semantic guardian, keeps the chip operating within its virtual fence. It works by switching the processor into a slower, bare-bones, safe mode when the chip encounters a configuration that has not been validated. In this way, the monitor would treat all untested configurations as potential threats.

This guardian isn't as controlling as it may sound, the researchers say.

"If you consider all the possible configurations of the processor, only a tiny fraction of them is verified. But that tiny portion accounts for the configurations that occur 99.9 percent of the time," said Valeria Bertacco, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

"Users wouldn't even notice when their processor switched to safe mode," Bertacco said. "It would happen infrequently, and it would only last momentarily, to get the computer through the uncharted territory. Then the chip would flip back to its regular mode."

Bertacco says this system would be akin to turning a motorcycle into a bicycle briefly when a rider encounters a rough patch of road. Then the rider could pedal over the bumps without crashing.

The vast majority of a processor's components are there for speed, Bertacco says. A chip in safe mode still operates properly and can perform all necessary functions.

The guardian would take only a small fraction of the microprocessor's area with a imperceptible performance impact, which the researchers assert is a small price to pay to eliminate the risks of buggy hardware.

This system could also protect against what could be hackers' next frontier: exploiting hardware design bugs in order to gain control of other computers. This threat has been in the news lately, as independent security researcher Kris Kaspersky announced plans to demonstrate a hardware bug exploit that can take over a machine, independent of its applications, operating system, or patch level. He is scheduled to demonstrate this attack at the upcoming Hack in the Box Security Conference, Oct. 27-30.

"Semantic guardians would stop these security attackers dead in their tracks, since the processor would no longer be able to execute the buggy configurations that they were planning to exploit, said Ilya Wagner, a doctoral student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Wagner presents this research Sept. 29 at the Gigascale System Research Center's annual meeting, where industry and government funding agencies come together to learn about new research results. He and Bertacco are authors of a paper called Engineering Trust with Semantic Guardians, which they presented at the Design Automation and Test in Europe Conference in April 2007. It is available online at http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~valeria/research/publications/DATE07Guardians.pdf.

For more information:
Valeria Bertacco: http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~valeria/
Ilya Wagner: http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~ivagner/
Michigan Engineering:
The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. At more than $130 million annually, its engineering research budget is one of largest of any public university. Michigan Engineering is home to 11 academic departments and a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The college plays a leading role in the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and hosts the world class Lurie Nanofabrication Facility. Michigan Engineering's premier scholarship, international scale and multidisciplinary scope combine to create The Michigan Difference.

Nicole Casal Moore | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://www.engin.umich.edu/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Cloud technology: Dynamic certificates make cloud service providers more secure
15.01.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht New discovery could improve brain-like memory and computing
10.01.2018 | University of Minnesota

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>