Secure Intermittent Computing: Precomputation and Implementation

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Virginia Tech

This thesis explores the security of intermittent devices, embedded systems designed to retain their state across periods of power loss, for cases both when the device has an excess of available energy and when power loss is unavoidable. Existing work with intermittent systems has focused on the problems inherent to the intermittent paradigm and ignored the security implications of persistent state across periods of power loss. The security of these devices is closely linked to their unique operational characteristics and are addressed here in two studies. First, the presence of an energy harvester creates an opportunity to use excess energy, available when additional energy is harvested after the local energy reservoir is filled, to precompute security related operations. Precomputation powered by this excess energy can reduce the cost of expensive tasks during periods of energy scarcity, potentially enabling the use of expensive security operations on traditionally unsecured devices. Second, when energy is limited and intermittent operation is required, the secure storage of checkpoints is a necessity to protect against adversary manipulation of the system state. To examine the secure storage of checkpoints a protocol is implemented to ensure the integrity and authenticity of a device's checkpoints, and evaluated for its energy overhead and performance. The cost of properly ensuring the integrity and authenticity of these checkpoints is examined to identify the overhead necessary to execute intermittent operations in a secure manner. Taken together, these studies lay the groundwork for a comprehensive view of the current state of intermittent device security.

intermittent computing, embedded systems security