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Systems Seminar - CSE

Practical systems for overcoming processor imperfections

Matthew HicksPostdoctoral Research AssociateDepartment of Computer Science at the
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Processors are not perfect. Even the most modern, thoroughly verified processors contain imperfections. Processor imperfections, being embedded in the lowest layer of the system, pose a significant problem not only for software developers during design and debug, but also serve as weaknesses to the security mechanisms implemented in the upper layers of the system. With such a pervasive impact on computing systems, it is vital that processor vendors address these imperfections in a way that maintains the abstraction of a perfect processor promised to software developers.

In this talk, I will present my work on designing systems that help reinforce the abstraction of a perfect processor in the face of a range of processor imperfections. Specifically, we build three reference systems targeted at different design-time processor imperfections: malicious circuits inserted into the processor description, errata-like bugs, and a subset of errata-like bugs that threaten the security abstractions of the processor.
Matthew Hicks is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His research areas include embedded systems, low-level security, and architecture. Matthew earned his PhD in Computer Science (advised by Sam King) from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2013, where he also earned his MS in 2008. Matthew earned his BS in Computer Science from the University of Central Florida in 2006.

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