New York University Abu Dhabi Institute (NYUAD Institute) announced today the launch of a new research initiative aimed at creating a new type of secure microprocessor that will guard against reverse engineering, tampering, counterfeiting and overproduction, and intellectual property piracy.
The work will be carried about by the NYUAD Institute through the TwinLab in Trustworthy Hardware, a new research initiative based at NYU Abu Dhabi that consists of two research groups – Design-for-Excellence (DfX) and Modern Microprocessor Architectures (MOMA). TwinLab aims to demonstrate the vulnerabilities on traditional microprocessor integrated circuits, and design the first truly secure microprocessor, which will be fabricated in collaboration with GLOBALFOUNDRIES, a leading provider of advanced semiconductor manufacturing technology.
TwinLab researchers will look to merge two unique technologies developed by the DfX Lab and MOMA to create a new type of secure microprocessor chip. The chip security features developed by the DfX Lab will secure a microprocessor by incorporating on-chip locks and by camouflaging the chip layout. Complementing this design-based approach to securing integrated circuits, the TwinLab’s focus will be on implementing MOMA’s revolutionary architecture, which maintains the privacy of data being processed. Essentially, the architecture will ensure that even if an attacker manages to extract information from the microprocessor it will be unusable in the absence of cryptographic keys.
TwinLab will be operational in November 2015 and plans to deliver various versions of its secure microprocessor chips over the next four years with a budget of $2.6 million.
With the development of the TwinLab, the NYUAD Institute has expanded its partnership with GLOBALFOUNDRIES to help respond to this critical area of industry need. Increased collaboration between NYUAD and GLOBALFOUNDRIES will help to facilitate future partnerships and further research and development possibilities.
NYU Abu Dhabi Director of the DfX Lab and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Ozgur Sinanoglu said: “This initiative will enable us to take our research to the next level. By working closely with our industry partners such as GLOBALFOUNDRIES, we will be able to turn our hardware security research, which has been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense and Semiconductor Research Corporation, into working prototypes of the first truly trustworthy and secure chip.”
NYU Abu Dhabi Director of the MoMA lab and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michail Maniatakos, also commented on the initiative: “Academic research is typically limited by the lack of advanced fabrication capabilities; with this project, we aim to build the first secure microprocessor by-design, and not just enhance current processors with security features.”
Geoffrey Akiki, General Manager of GLOBALFOUNDRIES Abu Dhabi, says: “Through our partnership with NYUAD, GLOBALFOUNDRIES is building on and extending our university relations in Abu Dhabi by providing our world-class technology and manufacturing know-how to support these important research efforts that aim to protect IP and data security."
According to Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) the semiconductor industry loses up to $4 billion annually due to IP infringement resulting from vulnerabilities in the current microprocessor design and fabrication flow. In addition to financial losses, attackers can use hardware trojans to retrieve information directly from integrated circuits, revealing sensitive information such as private keys and credit card information. TwinLab will operate in close collaboration with the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Security and Privacy (CRISSP-AD), another research center at NYU Abu Dhabi. It is also expected in the near-term that NYU faculty will initiate a division of the TwinLab in New York to conduct extensive security analysis of the fabricated chips.