Hayley Tankersley and Braxton Chappell are both electrical engineering majors at the University of Utah whose senior project is developing a new type of anti-hacking software.
Hackers attempt to exploit the systems that carry our sensitive information; one common method to do so is through a side-channel attack (SCA). A SCA is an attack that uses information from the implementation — physical parameters — of a computer system. These types of attacks must be done on the device itself, but because it is physical, the software cannot do anything to protect its information.
Tankersley and Chappell are combating this type of attack by testing different ways to trick power analyzers by moving logic gates and changing how the data is processed.
The duo took on the project in Armin Tajailli’s lab, after alumni Alex Krebs. “We are not the first to tackle this problem” Chappell said. However, their goals and methods are different. “Other people focus on accuracy, which is a lot of computing power and simulation time to get results,” Tankersley said. “We are looking to answer the lower level ‘is this even secure?’ quickly.”
In its final form, the team hopes to integrate their software with Cadence, a circuit designing software and simulator. This way, engineers can build and simulate their circuit and then export it to the anti-hacking software to validate the security of their system.
After the completion of this project, Tankersley will graduate and begin work at Hill Air Force Base as a software engineer, and Chappell will continue on to earn his master’s degree in electrical engineering and the University of Utah.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2022 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.