Mozaffari Kermani awarded $500,000 NIST Grant

May 6, 2020


USF Computer Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Mehran Mozaffari Kermani is the Principal Investigator (PI) for a 4-year, $500,000 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) federal agency grant to carry on fundamental research for the project titled Investigating Active Side-Channel Attacks and Developing Countermeasures for Standardization of Lightweight Cryptography. 
Lightweight embedded hardware and software computing systems have been utilized traditionally to provide efficiency in diverse usage models. These usage models range from active/passive near-field communication (NFC), implantable medical devices, and smart buildings/fabrics to the sensitive Internet of nano-Things in military front-fields. The emerging changes in the usage models of embedded systems (referred to as deeply-embedded architectures to reflect these changes), suggest that traditional security solutions through cryptographic architectures either fail in terms of security or provide sub-optimal efficiency (fail in lightweight applications). The tight resource constraints (calling for lightweight security) and extremely-sensitive nature of deeply-embedded systems create larger attack surface compared to traditional systems. Because of such gaps and security concerns that will plague these emerging systems, one needs to propose new research trends and feasibly execute them without jeopardizing the required security properties. 
This project is in line with NIST’s lightweight cryptography initiative, providing sensitive and constrained applications with new research routes to have feasible security. Such feasible mechanisms need to be secure against implementation attacks and any countermeasure provided needs to have the lightweight nature of such crypto-solutions intact. For the applications such as implantable medical devices where replacing batteries would require surgery and could be life-threatening, this is of significant importance (for example, cardiac devices are often expected to run for over 10 years on a limited size battery). The limited battery capacity, in turn, places stringent limits on processor capability and memory size. In this project, considering these knowledge gaps, devising secure and fault attack immune architectures considering the bottlenecks of traditional security solutions for embedded systems is investigated. Moreover, the project plans to explore the potential adverse effects of the devised countermeasures to vulnerability to the attacks based on the leaked information gained from power consumption traces (power analysis attacks) in deeply-embedded systems. 
The goal of this four-year project is exploring a paradigm shift in fault analysis attack immunity for lightweight cryptographic architectures without compromising false-alarm resiliency, energy efficacy, and resistance to power analysis attacks. For the first time, the project proposes architectures for lightweight cryptographic authenticated encryption and respective implementation attack countermeasures through the results of case studies for hash-counter-hash lightweight architectures including false-alarm-immune architectures to counteract distrust. This project’s duration is from April 2020 to April 2024.