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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R012598/1
Title: User-controlled hardware security anchors: evaluation and designs
Principal Investigator: Ryan, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Oswald, Dr D F Garcia, Dr F
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Hewlett Packard Yubico Inc
Department: School of Computer Science
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2017 Ends: 31 October 2022 Value (£): 486,082
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Computer Sys. & Architecture Fundamentals of Computing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
22 Sep 2017 Research Institute in Hardware Security - Research Projects Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Many modern processors are equipped with hardware extensions that enable some kind of Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). This allows programs to run securely - protected from other programs or operating system software running on the processor. By establishing a secure interface between the user and the hardware-anchor, we can make user platforms and devices more resilient to malware and other types of cyber attacks.

One of the main goals of this project is to promote and facilitate the adoption of TEE as the main trust anchor for our security architectures. As such, the security of the TEEs themselves is of paramount importance. We will perform a thorough evaluation of the security features of different TEE implementations to determine their suitability as trust anchors. This includes assessing cryptographic protocols, side-channel vulnerabilities, and implementation weaknesses.

Hardware supported TEEs aim to ensure that code can execute securely. However, user interface devices (for example, a keyboard, display or touch screen) are usually not connected directly to the secure hardware, which means that the user cannot interact securely with the TEE. We will address the limitations of users interacting directly with TEEs through analysing use cases and developing secure interfaces using auxiliary devices and dedicated features.

Authentication today is largely based on user supplied information like passwords or biometrics. These approaches often use information that is easy to steal or brute force. The industry has been moving towards multi-factor authentication as a means of spreading risk, but these approaches impose usability challenges while still relying on weak factors. We will investigate opportunities to leverage strong hardware-based security mechanisms to improve both the strength and usability of authentication. We will also build an architecture for designing protocols and user experiences that leverage these hardware security primitives to enhance the security, manageability, and usability of user authentication over existing approaches.

The analysis and applications of our research findings will be demonstrated and implemented on suitable platforms including secure hardware, smart devices and integration with authentication tokens.
Key Findings
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk