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Thursday, May 9 • 09:00 - 10:30
If You Can't Open It, You Don't Own It

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For the past 30 years, we have dealt with penetrations into secure systems almost exclusively from the software layer: applications and operating systems. With the advent of side channel attacks like Spectre, Meltdown and Foreshadow, hardware designs are now battlefields.

For C++ and Modern C++ engineers who run close to the hardware, whether they work in the embedded world or not, the implicit trust between our code and the hardware is absolute. In this talk, we'll look at how hardware has become the newest targets for the next generation of attackers and how that affects Modern C++ systems design. Then we'll see how hardware exploit strategies drive software exploit strategies in Modern C++.

We begin with a discussion of the concept of Roots of Trust and how each successive layer forms the Root of Trust for the layer above. But what are Roots of Trust and how can a failure at one level be used to create vulnerabilities in each successive layer? For Modern C++ systems, over reliance on the implicit trust of the layers below can spell disaster. But how does one layer protect itself against the broken trust of another?

Next, we'll see that side channel attacks are really a class of attacks that involve involuntary information disclosure. Spectre, Meltdown and Foreshadow are just one facet of those types of attacks. We'll look at how hardware side channel attacks that are run against hardware timing, current draw and memory all provide attackers invaluable information on the design and performance of a system. Then we'll see how these same types of attacks can be run against Modern C++ systems by profiling a running system.

We'll then discuss how having physical access to the hardware creates opportunities for attackers to design attacks that succeed at a distance. Physical penetrations range from probing data buses and pins to looking for emitted photons to tearing apart ICs. The exploitation of the hardware becomes the Achilles heal of the higher software layers because of their dependence in the hardware. But it also tells us something about the strategy for reverse engineering Modern C++ systems both in their behavior and their design. Understanding the strategies for reverse engineering software and source code shows us how to change our software designs and architectures to harden the target.

Finally, we'll discuss how hardware supply chains create opportunities for nation states to build in back doors for controlling systems at a distance. We'll see how Quality Assurance programs designed to catch tampering can be defeated by the careful selection of techniques and by simply playing the odds. We'll see how the strategies for testing are evolving to confront this new reality. And we'll look at how securing the supply chains of the future points us toward securing the supply chains in Modern C++, namely open source libraries.

Along the way, we'll see:

how C++ designers can defend against the failure of Root of Trust that's been in place for decades,
how software and hardware designs are changing to address these new threats,
how the compromises of the hardware supply chains mirror the compromises of the open source software industry, and
how the lessons learned in hardware exploitation affect the design of Modern C++ systems.

For C++ developers, understanding how the hardware layer can be compromised presents new challenges and has profound implications on the design and implementation of Modern C++ software systems.

avatar for Matthew Butler

Matthew Butler

Laurel Lye Consulting
Matthew Butler has spent the last three decades as a systems architect and software engineer developing systems for network security, law enforcement and the military. He primarily works in signals intelligence using C, C++ and Modern C++ to build systems running on hardware platforms... Read More →

Thursday May 9, 2019 09:00 - 10:30 MDT