Vulnerabilities in high-performance computer chips could lead to imminent failures in smart devices, says a WSU study.
The Washington State team deliberately added malicious workload to on-chip communications systems to uncover previously unknown vulnerabilities damaging these chips.
The researchers led by WSU assistant professor Partha Pande, have reported their findings at the 2018 IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Networks-on-Chip.
Researchers from all over the world have been working to understand the vulnerabilities of computer chips as a way to prevent malicious attacks on the electronics that make up everyday life.
However their research has been severely limited to analyzing computer chip components such as the processors, computer memory and circuits for security vulnerabilities.
The WSU team on the other hand has found significant vulnerabilities in the sophisticated communications backbone of high-performance computer chips.
“The communications system is the glue that holds everything together,” said Pande. “When it starts to malfunction, the whole system is going to crumble.”
The researchers devised three ‘craftily constructed deleterious’ attacks to test the communications system.
According to the team, this additional workload enhanced electromigration-induced stress and crosstalk noise.
The researchers then found that a limited number of crucial vertical links of the communication system were particularly vulnerable to fail.
These are the links that connect the processors in a stack and allows them to talk with each other.
The researchers are now working to develop ways to mitigate the problem, such as automated techniques and algorithms to detect and thwart attacks.
Image and content: Washington State University