The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has joined forces with researchers from the University of Michigan to develop a computer processor that’s impervious to hacking.
Cyber threats have become increasingly more prevalent in recent years. According to CSO Online’s State of Cybercrime 2017 report, the total cost of cyber crime is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021. But it’s not just consumers and business owners who are at risk. It’s also the military — and that’s why DARPA is hoping to develop an unhackable computer processor.
In December, DARPA announced plans to fund the University of Michigan with a $3.6 million grant to develop the new unhackable computer processor. There are currently plenty of software and applications designed to protect against hacking and other types of malicious threats. However, none of them are 100% effective all the time. Even the most secure servers and processors have their weaknesses. Therefore, DARPA and the University of Michigan are looking to solve this problem by designing a completely new, unhackable computer processor.
So, how exactly do researchers plan to create an unhackable computer? According to Todd Austin, the project’s team leader, they’ll use a unique architecture for the chip that essentially moves data around to random locations, all while using encryption algorithms to further protect it from prying eyes. As a result, anyone who manages to access a location of the processor on which data is stored, that data will probably move to a new location before the nefarious individual can act on it.
When speaking about the project, Austin compared the chip’s design to that of a Rubik’s Cube that’s constantly being rearranged. By shuffling the data around, it’s incredibly hard for hackers to infiltrate the system and access it. Combined with encryption, this project could yield an unhackable processor design.
“We are making the computer an unsolvable puzzle,” said Austin. “It’s like if you’re solving a Rubik’s Cube and every time you blink, I rearrange it. What’s incredibly exciting about the project is that it will fix tomorrow’s vulnerabilities. I’ve never known any security system that could be future proof.”
The project’s goal seeks to protect the newly designed computer processor from seven specific security vulnerabilities, including permission escalations, buffer errors, information leakage, number errors, cryptography errors, code injection and resource management. Austin’s team has already made strong gains towards achieving this goal. Whether or not an unhackable computer processor becomes a reality, however, remains to be seen.