PFP CyberSecurity Breaks on to the Scene to Identify Malware at the Chip Level.

By David Monahan on Mar 2, 2015 11:51:59 AM

A few weeks ago, I briefed with a new company called PFP Cybersecurity, also known as Power Fingerprinting, Inc., and was so intrigued by the concept alone that I wrote a Vendor to Watch about them. They officially launched on January 26, , and currently their claim to fame is their physics-based scanning technology which monitors the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) emanations of a microchip while operating. It then compares those readings to either a previous reading or to an established manufacturer’s baseline to determine the state of the chip. There are numerous uses for the technology from supply chain chip counterfeit detection, to operational failure prediction, and most unique of all, malware detection. The scanners are useful in many environments, but especially those that are change and failure/fault intolerant like space vehicles, nuclear and other critical infrastructure environments, and multiple military and natural resource acquisitions environments because they are touchless. There is nothing to install on the system using the microchip, so no change control requests or outage windows are needed. The other interesting thing about their technology is it is disruptive to the current scanner market, costing significantly less than competing products. Their platform is that each model of chip has a different EMF/power signature. These also vary by manufacturer because of variances in raw materials sourcing and manufacturing processes. It is well known that under use conditions, especially when heat dissipation is not well implemented, the chips degrade over time until failure. (That’s the point when the ‘magic smoke’ comes out and it stops working.) The cool part for me was the concept of malware detection. Aside from the physical properties of the chip, the software running on the chip will change the output pattern because of register changes and associated changes in code execution. This means that if a probe is scanning a chip and malware installs itself, the scanner can detect it at the time of installation and alert an operator that it has happened, potentially avoiding larger impact failures and data exfiltration. This technique reminds me of classic side channel attacks on CPUs that perform encryption to attempt a key extraction based on how the various chip leads changed over time. (The key difference being those attacks required contact with the open leads.) In a sense, this technology is highly disruptive, in a positive way, to both the current scanning system suppliers because of the lower cost, and to the infrastructure and supply chains because of not only the cost, but also because of the reported accuracy. It will significantly improve supply chain verification, system reliability, and security. I am looking forward to see how they progress in the marketplace over the next few years. About PFP Cybersecurity Headquartered in Washington, D.C., PFP Cybersecurity provides a unique, anomaly-based cyber security threat detection technology that can instantly identify software and hardware intrusion including active and dormant attacks. With its innovative technology, PFP shortens the compromise detection gap to milliseconds by monitoring changes in electromagnetic frequencies and power usage. This physics-based technology can be applied to detect advanced malware and sophisticated threats in critical cyber systems. It can also detect hardware Trojans and counterfeits in the supply chain. For more information, please visit: www.pfpcyber.com

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