Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Vulnerability of cloud service hardware uncovered

03.06.2019

Cloud services and the IoT often use FPGA chips that are considered as relatively secure; however, scientists recently detected a vulnerability that calls for protection

Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are, so to say, a computer manufacturer's "Lego bricks": electronic components that can be employed in a more flexible way than other computer chips. Even large data centers that are dedicated to cloud services, such as those provided by some big technology companies, often resort to FPGAs.


Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are more flexible than common specialized computer chips -- and they used to be seen as particularly secure.

Credit: Gnad, KIT

To date, the use of such services has been considered as relatively secure. Recently, however, scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) uncovered potential gateways for cyber criminals, as they explain in a report published in the IACR journal. (DOI: 10.13154)

While conventional computer chips mostly perform a very specific task that never changes, FPGAs are capable of assuming nearly every function of any other computer chip. This often makes them first choice for the development of new devices or systems.

"FPGAs are for example built into the first product batch of a new device because, unlike special chips whose development only pays off when produced in high volumes, FPGAs can still be modified later," says Dennis Gnad, a member of the Institute of Computer Engineering (ITEC) at KIT. The computer scientist compares this to a sculpture made from reusable Lego bricks instead of a modeling compound that can no longer be modified once it has hardened.

Therefore, the fields of application of these digital multi-talents span the most diverse sectors, such as smartphones, networks, the Internet, medical engineering, vehicle electronics, or aerospace. Having said that, FPGAs stand out by their comparatively low current consumption, which makes them ideally suited for the server farms run by cloud service providers. A further asset of these programmable chips is that they can be partitioned at will.

"The upper half of the FPGA can be allocated to one customer, the lower half to a second one," says Jonas Krautter, another ITEC member. Such a use scenario is highly desirable for cloud services, where tasks related e.g. to databases, AI applications, such as machine learning, or financial applications have to be performed.

Multiple-User Access Facilitates Attacks

Gnad describes the problem as follows: "The concurrent use of an FPGA chip by multiple users opens a gateway for malicious attacks." Ironically, just the versatility of FPGAs enables clever hackers to carry out so-called side-channel attacks. In a side-channel attack, cyber criminals use the energy consumption of the chip to retrieve information allowing them to break its encryption.

Gnad warns that such chip-internal measurements enable a malicious cloud service customer to spy on another. What is more, hackers are not only able to track down such telltale current consumption fluctuations--they can even fake them.

"This way, it is possible to tamper with the calculations of other customers or even to crash the chip altogether, possibly resulting in data losses," Krautter explains. Gnad adds that similar hazards exist for other computer chips as well. This includes those used frequently for IoT applications, such as smart heating control or lighting systems.

To solve the problem, Gnad and Krautter adopted an approach that consists in restricting the immediate access of users to the FPGAs. "The challenge is to reliably filter out malicious users without tying up the legitimate ones too much," says Gnad.

###

IACR publication:

Gnad, D., Krautter, J., & Tahoori, M. (2019). Leaky Noise: New Side-Channel Attack Vectors in Mixed-Signal IoT Devices. IACR Transactions on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems, 2019(3), 305-339. https://doi.org/10.13154/tches.v2019.i3.305-339

More information:

Podcast on FPGA side channels: http://modellansatz.de/fpga-seitenkanaele (in German)

More about the KIT Information · Systems · Technologies Center: http://www.kcist.kit.edu

Press contact:

Kosta Schinarakis
Editor/Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-21165
E-Mail: schinarakis@kit.edu

Being "the Research University in the Helmholtz Association," KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. For this, about 9,300 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 25,100 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life.

This press release is available on the internet at http://www.sek.kit.edu/presse.php

Media Contact

Monika Landgraf
presse@kit.edu
49-721-608-21105

 @KITKarlsruhe

http://www.kit.edu/index.php 

Monika Landgraf | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.kit.edu/kit/english/pi_2019_068_vulnerability-of-cloud-service-hardware-uncovered.php
http://dx.doi.org/10.13154/tches.v2019.i3.305-339

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures
14.02.2020 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Computer-based weather forecast: New algorithm outperforms mainframe computer systems
13.02.2020 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

Im Focus: Quantum fluctuations sustain the record superconductor

Superconductivity approaching room temperature may be possible in hydrogen-rich compounds at much lower pressures than previously expected

Reaching room-temperature superconductivity is one of the biggest dreams in physics. Its discovery would bring a technological revolution by providing...

Im Focus: New coronavirus module in SORMAS

HZI-developed app for disease control is expanded to stop the spread of the pathogen

At the end of December 2019, the first cases of pneumonia caused by a novel coronavirus were reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan. Since then, infections...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

How do rotor blades deform in wind gusts?

17.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Understanding Metal Ion Release from Hip Implants

17.02.2020 | Materials Sciences

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells

17.02.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>