Researchers have developed a processor capable of changing its own microarchitecture on the fly in order to block hacker attacks. An approach that does not fix software flaws, but prevents hackers from exploiting them.
And if the key to protect against software flaws was a hardware solution? In an article published in The Conversation, Todd Austin and Lauren Biernacki, researchers at the University of Michigan, detail their processor secure Morpheus, almost impossible to hack.
The exploitation of many software flaws requires an intimate knowledge of the microarchitecture of the processor to carry out the manipulation of pointers, the injection of code and the attacks by side channel. To counter these attacks, the researchers came up with the idea of creating a processor that randomly changes its microarchitecture, creating a puzzle which does not affect the operation of software running on the computer.
A microarchitecture that changes several times per second
Researchers believe that an experienced hacker could fix this problem in a matter of hours, but Morpheus doesn’t give him the chance. Its microarchitecture is modified several times per second. This system has proven successful, as 525 cybersecurity researchers spent three months trying to hack this processor unsuccessfully as part of a program sponsored by the DARPA, the research agency of the US Department of Defense.
The majority of vulnerabilities are software-related, caused by errors in the code. However, it is almost impossible to write a program without any bug, as evidenced by security updates that all software knows. The Morpheus processor adds an extra level of security by preventing hackers from using these loopholes to infiltrate the system.
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