Marina Minkin, PhD candidate in Computer Science and Engineering, has received a 2021 Facebook Fellowship to support her work enabling more secure computing. The award recognizes promising doctoral students engaged in innovative and relevant research, with an acceptance rate below 1% for applicants. In addition to tuition and financial support, fellowship recipients receive conference travel support and a paid visit to Facebook headquarters for the annual Fellowship Summit.
Minkin is advised by Prof. Baris Kasikci and has also collaborated with Prof. Daniel Genkin and Prof. Atul Prakash. Marina’s research aims to detect and mitigate security flaws in hardware. Hardware is the lowest layer of abstraction in modern computer systems – it allows higher abstraction levels to function, from assembly code to complex applications. The security of each layer relies on the security of lower levels, and all rely on the correct behavior of hardware.
“Unfortunately,” says Minkin, “my research demonstrates that there are critical vulnerabilities in modern hardware. These vulnerabilities can have the broadest impact on a system since they can compromise even bug-free software.” She adds that the long deployment cycle of new hardware forces CPU vendors to continuously try to mitigate vulnerabilities as they are discovered.
Marina’s research closely investigates the boundary between software and hardware. Her work demonstrates that software that runs on real hardware can leak information through contention on hardware components. Marina’s work has shown how different processes can read each other’s data and data belonging to the operating system. The attacks that Marina helped develop have received attention from hardware vendors as well as from popular and technology media outlets.