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An Approach for Home Routers to Securely Erase Sensitive Data

TitleAn Approach for Home Routers to Securely Erase Sensitive Data
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBeneš, N
Refereed DesignationUnknown
AdvisorGrothoff, C
Academic DepartmentInformatics
Number of Pages64
Date Published10/2014
UniversityTechnische Universität München
Thesis TypeBachelor Thesis
KeywordsGNUnet, home router, intrusion detection, memory erasure, Panic, physical access

Home routers are always-on low power embedded systems and part of the Internet infrastructure. In addition to the basic router functionality, they can be used to operate sensitive personal services, such as for private web and email servers, secure peer-to-peer networking services like GNUnet and Tor, and encrypted network file system services. These services naturally involve cryptographic operations with the cleartext keys being stored in RAM. This makes router devices possible targets to physical attacks by home intruders. Attacks include interception of unprotected data on bus wires, alteration of firmware through exposed JTAG headers, or recovery of cryptographic keys through the cold boot attack.

This thesis presents Panic!, a combination of open hardware design and free software to detect physical integrity attacks and to react by securely erasing cryptographic keys and other sensitive data from memory. To improve auditability and to allow cheap reproduction, the components of Panic! are kept simple in terms of conceptual design and lines of code.

First, the motivation to use home routers for services besides routing and the need to protect their physical integrity is discussed. Second, the idea and functionality of the Panic! system is introduced and the high-level interactions between its components explained. Third, the software components to be run on the router are described. Fourth, the requirements of the measurement circuit are declared and a prototype is presented. Fifth, some characteristics of pressurized environments are discussed and the difficulties for finding adequate containments are explained. Finally, an outlook to tasks left for the future is given.

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