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Researchers Built a “Shapeshifting” CPU That’s Impossible to Hack

The Morpheus CPU.
University of Michigan

Researchers at the University of Michigan developed a new computer processor, called Morpheus, that constantly changes its microarchitecture to thwart hacking attempts. In other words, it turns into a new computer even few seconds. Tests funded by DARPA show that the system is, for the time being, unhackable.

Every CPU has an architecture, which is a set of rules and instructions that software must follow to work properly. Software designed for an x86 “desktop” architecture, for example, won’t work on ARM “mobile” architecture. But not all CPU hardware is the same, which is where microarchitectures come in.

Basically, a microarchitecture determines how a CPU implements its architecture. It’s like how two apartments might look identical from the outside but have a completely different interior. And just as a burglar needs to know a home’s layout to pull off a successful heist, hackers need to understand a computer’s microarchitecture before they try to attack it with malware.

By constantly altering its microarchitecture, the Morpheus processor presents hackers with a never-ending puzzle that’s impossible to solve (for now). If we build on the apartment analogy, Morpheus is like a home that’s constantly rearranging, with rooms that grow big and small for no apparent reason.

Development of the Morpheus CPU was funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA), and it will probably find its way to government institutions and defense facilities before reaching the average person or business. Funny enough, DARPA publicized this project just weeks after the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack brought a new wave of cybersecurity-anxiety to the United States.

Source: University of Michigan via PopSci

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »