Professors Ajay Joshi and Manuel Egele Team Up to Win Google Research Award

Younger generations may not know the feeling but those born before the 2000s era know the torture of sitting at a slow computer. Staring at the screen, waiting for a file or a web browser to load. That was back when the world had a little more patience. Now, every computer has to be faster than the next. However, having a high-speed computer may mean that there is a compromise in its hardware security; making computers vulnerable to exploitation. To solve this issue, professors Ajay Joshi (ECE) and Manuel Egele (ECE), along with their students Leila Delshadtehrani, Sadullah Canacki and Boyou Zhou have come up with hardware-level protection against memory corruption attacks. Their research proposal entitled  “Securing Processors Using an Array of Specialized and Programmable Policy Engines (ASPEn)”  was recognized by Google with a Research Award.  

Professor Joshi headshot
Ajay Joshi

The team’s project focuses on making hardware security a first-class design constraint while minimizing the loss of performance. To make this happen, they plan to design and evaluate the use of the ASPEn for securing the RISC-V processor core against memory-corruption attacks and for maintaining data confidentiality. Memory corruptions are the attack vector of choice for adversaries in their attempts to compromise server and client software alike and trick the attacked software to execute malicious code of the attacker’s choosing. The ASPEn monitor will include both programmable policy engines (PPEs) that offer flexibility in the formulation of security policies at the cost of energy efficiency and specialized policy engines (SPEs) that support a fixed set of policies but are highly energy efficient. The project will produce a prototype of the RISC-V processor + ASPEn monitor on an FPGA and an evaluation of its security capabilities using the FPGA prototype with a Linux kernel and appropriate user space.

They plan to integrate this new design into a practical system by creating a smaller version of their ASPEn security monitor and its interface with the RISC-V processor, toolchains, overlying software and policies under an open source license. This will enable securing processors against a variety of vulnerability classes. The team’s overall goal is to prevent future attacks that will only grow in frequency and severity. This will, hopefully, give time to the security community to develop and deploy new policies to counter future attacks.  


Headshot of Manuel Egele, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University College of Engineering
Manuel Egele

Ajay Joshi and Manuel Egele are both professors within the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Joshi’s focus consists mainly of VLSI Design, Computer Architecture, Silicon Photonics, and Neuromorphic Systems. While also educating his students in various engineering design courses, he has many honors and awards as well. Joshi has received the Boston University Ignition Award, ECE Award for Excellence in Teaching, Associate Editor Journal of Circuits, Systems and Computers and the NSF CAREER Award among a few others. We look forward to the new ideas, research, and prototypes from the Egele and Joshi team.

Egele focuses on Systems Security which encompasses Software Security, Web Security as well as Security & Privacy on Mobile Systems and Online Social Networks. Along with shaping the minds of young engineering students, he has also received two prestigious awards; The Hariri Institute for Computing Junior Faculty Fellow and the Distinguished Paper Award entitled “PiOS: Detecting Privacy Leaks in iOS Applications”.