Electronic devices that used to rely on passwords now use Touch ID or face-recognition software. But protecting software is only one part of electronic security — hardware is also susceptible to attacks. Devices such as remote car keys, cable boxes, and even credit card chips are all vulnerable to hardware attacks, mostly because of their design. These devices are small and lightweight and typically operate on minimal power. Engineers optimize designs, so the devices can work within these low-power constraints.

When something like a cable box turns on, it decodes and encodes specific manufacturer information tied to its security. This decoding and encoding process draws more power and emits more electromagnetic radiation than when all of the other functions are on. Over time, these variations in power and radiation create a pattern unique to that cable box and that unique signature is what hackers are looking for.

Researchers developed an algorithm that safeguards hardware from attacks to steal data. In these attacks, hackers detect variations of power and electromagnetic radiation in electronic devices’ hardware and then use that variation to steal encrypted information.

Design specification is restructured at an algorithmic level so the algorithm, no matter how it is implemented, draws the same amount of power in every cycle. The amount of power consumed across all the cycles is equalized, so even if attackers have power measurements, they can't do anything with that information.

What's left is a more secure device with a more automated design. Rather than manually securing each hardware component, the algorithm automates the process. In addition, a device created using this algorithm only uses about 5 percent more power than an insecure device, making the work commercially viable.

For more information, contact Brandon Pytel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 513-556-4686.


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This article first appeared in the October, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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