Thermal monitoring system to detect processor hacking

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According to a research team from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, devices made on processes of less than 10nm are highly sensitive and could be destroyed within a few days through artificial ageing instigated by hackers.

Looking to defend against potential attacks, the team is working on a smart system in which the processor’s thermal patterns during normal operation are monitored.

“Every chip produces a specific thermal fingerprint,” said Professor Jörg Henkel. “Calculations are carried out, something is stored in the main memory or retrieved from the hard disk. All these operations produce short-term heating and cooling in various areas of the processor.” Prof Henkel’s team monitored this pattern with infrared cameras and reproduced changes in the control routine from minimum temperature changes or temporal deviations of a few milliseconds.

In the future, on chip sensors will replace cameras. “We already have temperature sensors on chips for overheat protection,” Prof Henkel said. “We will increase the number of sensors and use them for cyber security purposes.” In addition, the scientists want to equip the chips with neural networks to identify thermal deviations and to monitor the chip in real time.