Intel and UC San Diego join DARPA’s HARDEN program
On February 1, Intel and the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) announced that they have been selected to join the Hardening Development Toolchains Against Emergent Execution Engines (HARDEN) program team for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Adversaries have crafted increasingly complex cyberattacks in reaction to decades of platform hardening efforts and increasing IT security measures that reduce vulnerabilities. Attempts to mitigate these threats have fallen short, creating an increased risk of intrusion into current and legacy code.
“The growing complexity of computer systems leads to more avenues for executing exploits. Through the DARPA HARDEN program, we will deepen research with UC San Diego to achieve a practical method to harden legacy and future systems against cyberattacks across the government computing landscape and beyond,” said Michael LeMay, Intel Labs senior staff research scientist and Intel’s principal investigator for the DARPA HARDEN program.
To address threats of cyberattack, DARPA selected several teams to work on solutions to mitigate and prevent vulnerabilities in integrated computing systems. The four-year joint effort will focus on creating tools rooted in cryptography and formal security theories. As part of this effort, DARPA will utilize Intel’s Cryptographic Capability Computing (C3) system, the first stateless memory safety mechanism that effectively replaces inefficient metadata with efficient cryptography.
At UC San Diego, the effort will be led by professors Deian Stefan and Dean Tullsen from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
Since at least the mid-1960s, computer scientists have sought “capability-based access control” for its thorough security. Capabilities enlighten processors to fine-grained divisions between data objects in memory, which enables addressing memory safety issues that have persistently accounted for most software vulnerabilities across the industry. These can provide an entry point for adversaries to launch “emergent execution” attacks, which manipulate complex interacting system behaviors (sometimes called “weird machine” behaviors) to compromise data and system operation.
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