A Touch of Evil: High-Assurance Cryptographic Hardware from Untrusted Components [ACM CCS 2017]

Authors: Vasilios Mavroudis, Andrea Cerulli, Petr Svenda, Dan Cvrcek, Dusan Klinec and George Danezis

Primary contact: Vasilios Mavroudis mavroudisv@gmail.com

Abstract: The semiconductor industry is fully globalized and integrated circuits (ICs) are commonly defined, designed and fabricated in different premises across the world. This reduces production costs, but also exposes ICs to supply chain attacks, where insiders introduce malicious circuitry into the final products. Additionally, despite extensive post-fabrication testing, it is not uncommon for ICs with subtle fabrication errors to make it into production systems. While many systems may be able to tolerate a few byzantine components, this is not the case for cryptographic hardware, storing and computing on confidential data. For this reason, many error and backdoor detection techniques have been proposed over the years. So far all attempts have been either quickly circumvented, or come with unrealistically high manufacturing costs and complexity. This paper proposes Myst, a practical high-assurance architecture, that uses commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, and provides strong security guarantees, even in the presence of multiple malicious or faulty components. The key idea is to combine protective-redundancy with modern threshold cryptographic techniques, to form an robust backdoor and error containment unit. To evaluate our design, we build a Hardware Security Module that provides the highest level of assurance possible with COTS components. Specifically, we employ more than a hundred COTS secure cryptocoprocessors, verified to FIPS140-2 Level 4 tamper-resistance standards, and use them to realize high-confidentiality random number generation, key derivation, public key decryption and signing. Our experiments show a reasonable computational overhead (less than 1% for both Decryption and Signing) and an exponential increase in backdoor-tolerance as more ICs are added.

Bibtex (regular paper)

  Author        = {Vasilios Mavroudis and Andrea Cerulli and Petr Svenda and Dan Cvrcek and Dusan Klinec and George Danezis},
  Title         = {A Touch of Evil: High-Assurance Cryptographic Hardware from Untrusted Components},
  BookTitle     = {24th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS'2017)},
  Year          = {2017},
  Pages         = {1583--1600},
  ISBN          = {978-1-4503-4946-8},
  Publisher     = {ACM},