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Black Hat USA 2014: Think Hard

Code can always change, but silicon is forever... more or less. Today's quartet of Black Hat Briefing highlights, which will all take place at Black Hat USA 2014, examine security with a focus on the hard stuff.

It's always fun when a solution for one issue can be repurposed to solve another problem. Creating a Spider Goat: Using Transactional Memory Support for Security brings us another example, in which the presenters bent the Transactional Synchronization Extension (TSX) memory conflict avoidance features of modern Intel CPUs toward security purposes. Used this way, TSX can detect malicious RAM modifications with minimal overhead. They'll also address potential problems of this unofficial use case.

The last decade's seen great advances in secure software development practices, but secure hardware development remains essentially undefined. Most hardware doesn't bother with security routines, or it keeps them obfuscated and secretive. SecSi Product Development: Techniques for Ensuring Secure Silicon Applied to Open-Source Verilog Projects aims to get that ball rolling, documenting pre- and post-silicon validation techniques and applying them to various open-source core designs while classifying various hardware security bugs into several categories.

The Bluetooth-, IR-based Super iBox BT, popular among real estate professionals, is a physically hardened device that stores a door key and contains a hardened MSP430 with a blown JTAG fuse. Is this still a large obstacle? In Reverse-Engineering the Supra iBox: Exploitation of a Hardened MSP430-Based Device, Braden Thomas will present his findings, giving an update on Goodspeed's 2008 bootstrap attacks and ultimately demonstrating how to perform firmware extraction reliably on such boxes. His newly developed attack can open any iBox, despite their complex and surprisingly effective crypto key management scheme.

Speaking of keys, How to Wear Your Password will present a new authentication paradigm that achieves both a desirable user experience and a high level of security. The security bracelet in question has a low-power processor, a Bluetooth LE transmitter, an accelerometer, and a clasp that detects wearer presence or lack thereof. Expect a thorough case study, complete with discussion of the physical design, the lightweight security protocols needed for pairing, determination of user intent, credential management, safeguards against violent attacks on the wearer, and the security implications of the design.

Regular registration ends on July 26. Please visit Black Hat USA 2014's registration page to get started.

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