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This new Japanese cipher system could protect computers from spyware

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Spyware, malware, in fact all the cyber ‘wares will be an increasing problem in the future, but this cipher for cache randomisation could be a good defence …

 

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A team of researchers from around the world has made significant progress in the field of computer security by creating a new and highly effective cipher for cache randomization. The innovative cipher, designed by Assistant Professor Rei Ueno from the Research Institute of Electrical Communication at Tohoku University, addresses the threat of cache side-channel attacks, offering both enhanced security and exceptional performance.

 

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Modern computer systems are under serious threat from cache side-channel attacks, which can covertly gather sensitive data such as secret keys and passwords from unaware targets. Addressing these attacks is particularly difficult because they take advantage of flaws in the current working mechanisms of computers, making the creation of effective countermeasures extremely challenging.

 

 

Cache randomization has emerged as a promising countermeasure; however, identifying a secure and effective mathematical function for this purpose has been a lingering challenge for a long time, until now it seems.

To overcome this Ueno and his team created SCARF which is based on a novel mathematical formula and the modelling of cache side-channel attacks. Moreover, SCARF exhibits remarkable performance, completing the randomization process with only half the latency of existing cryptographic techniques. The cipher’s practicality and performance were thoroughly validated through rigorous hardware evaluations and system-level simulations.

 

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The team comprised members from Tohoku University, CASA at Ruhr University Bochum, and NTT Social Informatics Laboratories at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation.

“We are thrilled to announce SCARF, a powerful tool in enhancing computer security,” said Ueno. “Our innovative cipher is engineered to be compatible with various modern computer architectures, ensuring its widespread applicability and potential to bolster computer security significantly.”

 

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SCARF’s potential impact extends beyond individual computers, as its implementation has the capacity to contribute to building a more secure information society. By mitigating cache side-channel attack vulnerabilities, SCARF takes a critical step toward safeguarding sensitive data and user privacy.

 

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Reference: “SCARF: A Low-Latency Block Cipher for Secure Cache-Randomization,” USENIX Security Symposium

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