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To Foil Hackers, 'Morpheus' Chip Can Change Its Code In the Blink of An Eye
Todd Austin, a professor at the University of Michigan, is working on an approach known as Morpheus that aims to frustrate hackers trying to gain control of microchips by presenting them with a rapidly changing target. At a conference in Detroit this week organized by the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Austin described how the prototype Morpheus chip works. MIT Technology Review reports: The aim is to make it incredibly difficult for hackers to exploit key software that helps govern the chip's operation. Morpheus does this by repeatedly randomizing elements of the code that attackers need access to in order to compromise the hardware. This can be achieved without disrupting the software applications that are powered by the processor. Austin has been able to get the chip's code "churning" to happen once every 50 milliseconds -- way faster than needed to frustrate the most powerful automated hacking tools. So even if hackers find a vulnerability, the information needed to exploit it disappears in the blink of an eye. There's a cost to all this: the technology causes a slight drop in performance and requires somewhat bigger chips. The military may accept this trade-off in return for greater security on the battlefield, but it could limit Morpheus's appeal to businesses and consumers. Austin said a prototype has already resisted every known variant of a widely-used hacking technique known as a control-flow attack, which does things like tampering with the way a processor handles memory in order to allow hackers to sneak in malware. More tests lie ahead. A team of U.S. national security experts will soon begin probing the prototype chip to see if they can compromise its defenses, and Austin also plans to post some of Morpheus's code online so that other researchers can try to find flaws in it, too.

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Microsoft To Explore Using Rust
Microsoft plans to explore using the Rust programming language as an alternative to C, C++, and others, as a way to improve the security posture of its and everyone else's apps. From a report: The announcement was made yesterday by Gavin Thomas, Principal Security Engineering Manager for the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC). "You're probably used to thinking about the Microsoft Security Response Center as a group that responds to incidents and vulnerabilities," Thomas said. "We are a response organization, but we also have a proactive role, and in a new blog series we will highlight Microsoft's exploration of safer system programming languages, starting with Rust." The end game is to find a way to move developers from the aging C and C++ programming language to so-called "memory-safe languages." Memory-safe languages, such as Rust, are designed from the ground up with protections against memory corruption vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows, race conditions, memory leaks, use-after free and memory pointer-related bugs.

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Justice John Paul Stevens, Dead At 99, Promoted the Internet Revolution
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens passed away Tuesday evening of complications following a stroke he suffered on July 15. He was 99 years old. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a lightly edited version of Ars Technica's 2010 story that originally marked his retirement from the Supreme Court: In April 2010, the Supreme Court's most senior justice, John Paul Stevens, announced his retirement. In the weeks that followed, hundreds of articles were written about his career and his legacy. While most articles focus on 'hot button' issues such as flag burning, terrorism, and affirmative action, Stevens' tech policy record has largely been ignored. When Justice Stevens joined the court, many of the technologies we now take for granted -- the PC, packet-switched networks, home video recording -- were in their infancy. During his 35-year tenure on the bench, Stevens penned decisions that laid the foundation for the tremendous innovations that followed in each of these areas. For example, Stevens penned the 1978 decision that shielded the software industry from the patent system in its formative years. In 1984, Hollywood's effort to ban the VCR failed by just one Supreme Court vote; Stevens wrote the majority opinion. And in 1997, he wrote the majority opinion striking down the worst provisions of the Communications Decency Act and ensuring that the Internet would have robust First Amendment protections. Indeed, Justice Stevens probably deserves more credit than any other justice for the innovations that occurred under his watch. And given how central those technologies have become to the American economy, Stevens' tech policy work may prove one of his most enduring legacies. In this feature, we review Justice Stevens' tech policy decisions and salute the justice who helped make possible DRM-free media devices, uncensored Internet connections, free software, and much more. As the report mentions, Stevens was the Supreme Court's cryptographer. "Stevens attended the University of Chicago, graduating in 1941. On December 6 -- the day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor -- Stevens enrolled in the Navy's correspondence course on cryptography." "Stevens spent the war in a Navy bunker in Hawaii, doing traffic analysis in an effort to determine the location of Japanese ships," the report adds. "He was an English major, not a mathematician, but he proved to have a knack for cryptographic work."

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