EPoCH: Exploring and Preventing Cryptographic Hardware Backdoors: Protecting the Internet of Things against Next-Generation Attacks

Janet Lackey under CC license

EPoCH is an ERC Advanced Grant, the most prestigous research funding awarded by the European Research Counsil. The project started in October 2016 and runs for five years, and has a budget of roughly 2.5 million Euros. Here is a description of the research that will be conducted by Christof Paar and his team.

The digital landscape is currently undergoing an evolution towards the Internet of Things. For example, cars, houses, smartphones and factories are going to be connected to the Internet, opening up many new opportunities for users and businesses. However, the IoT also comes with a dramatically increased threat potential, as attacks can endanger human life and can lead to a massive loss of privacy of citizens. A particular dangerous class of attacks manipulates the cryptographic algorithms in the underlying hardware. Backdoors in the cryptography of IoT devices can lead to system-wide loss of security. This proposal has the ambitious goal to comprehensively understand and counter low-level backdoor attacks.

A major part is the establishment of an encompassing understanding of how hardware manipulations of cryptographic functions can actually be performed, and what the consequences are for the system security. Exploring attacks is fundamental for designing strong countermeasures, analogous to the role of cryptanalysis in cryptology. Another important aspect of EPoCH is the development of hardware countermeasures that provide protection against malicious manipulations of cryptography.