ERC Advanced Grant for Bochum IT security expert
Christof Paar has been awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council. The IT security expert will use the 2.5 million euros funding for closing dangerous backdoors that are a major threat for the Internet of Things.
In the current application round for the hotly contested Advanced Grants of the European Research Council (ERC), two researchers from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have been successful. In addition to Prof Christof Paar who has the Chair for Embedded Security, chemist Prof Martina Havenith also received an ERC grant. These two projects have a total volume of 5 million euros.
Christof Paar's research project "Exploring and Preventing Cryptographic Hardware Backdoors: Protecting the Internet of Things against Next-Generation Attacks" is scheduled to start on October 1, 2016, and has a duration of five years.
Internet of Things has a potential for malicious attacks
The upcoming Internet of Things (IoT) will interconnect many devices of everyday life. For example, cars, houses, smartphones and factories are going to be connected to the Internet. Even though there are many new services for consumers, this development also poses a major security challenge . "The hazard potential of attacks is rising dramatically," warns Christof Paar. On the one hand, it's about protecting people's privacy; in the worst-case scenario, hackers can also put human life in jeopardy, e.g., by manipulating car electronics.
Attacks that target the hardware chips that are present in all IoT devices, rather than the software, are considered particularly dangerous. By manipulating integrated circuits attackers can, for instance, disable cryptographic algorithms. Thus, they can circumvent security solutions and gain control over crucial devices and systems.
Developing security measures against hardware Trojans
The ERC-funded project intends to avert that. In a first step, the researchers plan to analyse the different ways in which hardware can be manipulated. In the second phase, countermeasures will be developed that protect cryptographic algorithms against hardware Trojans.
Such security measures are vital not just for devices in the Internet of Things. Hardware Trojans can, for example, also be a threat for banking terminals or network routers.
Research excellence as selection criterion
The European Union uses the Advanced Grants to fund high-risk, seminal ideas of established academics and researchers. In 2015, 1,953 applications were submitted. The ERC approved a mere 14 per cent of them. Research excellence was the only selection criterion.