A secure new computer processor that can thwart hackers by unpredictably modifying its underlying structure was just developed, Sciencelert reports.
Last summer, 525 security researchers worked hard in an attempt to hack the Morpheus processor plus others.
However, all attempts to hack Morpheus were unsuccessful.
The study was sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Program Agency, in a program that aimed to design a secure processor that should be able to protect vulnerable software.
DARPA published the results for the first time in January 2021.
Processors are the brains of computers – They run software programs.
As a processor underlies all software systems, a safe processor can shield any software running on it against cyber attacks.
The team from the University of Michigan initially developed Morpheus in 2019.
Processors have a microarchitecture that helps them run sets of instructions. The microarchitecture is also directly responsible for running the instruction set, the speed of the execution and the amount of power it uses.
Hackers must be intimately familiar with the details of the microarchitecture to produce the malicious code (also known as malware) for vulnerable computers.
To put an end to the attacks, Morpheus randomly changes the implementation details to shape the system into a puzzle that hackers have to solve before conducting their security exploits.
From one Morpheus computer to another, information like the commands the processor runs or the program data format randomly modifies to be as unpredictable as possible.
Hypothetically speaking, a skilled hacker could be able to reverse-engineer a Morpheus machine in a matter of hours if given the chance.
However, Morpheus counters that by changing the microarchitecture every few hundred milliseconds.
Therefore, the attackers not only have to reverse-engineer the architecture – but they also need to do that extremely quick.