Major side-channel discovery wins NSA contest

By | December 2, 2020
Spectre ghost image over code in background

The National Security Agency recently recognized a major breakthrough in the field of side-channel attacks as the winner of the 2020 Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper competition. Daniel Genkin, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, worked on the paper with collaborators from around the world. The winning paper, describing an exploit called Spectre, broke open a new area of investigation in hardware-based data leaks.

Recently, Genkin’s lab was awarded several million dollars in grants to expand their side-channel investigations in new directions, including examining the risk posed by side-channels to fundamental cryptographic measures and protocols. They plan to build a toolset to mount side-channel attacks and apply them to explore new sources of data leaks, testing all existing side-channel countermeasures along the way.

Ultimately, the group seeks to take a more systematic approach to this growing field of research, resulting in computer designs that are more resilient to hardware-based hacks and data leaks.