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Shape-Shifting Computer Chip Thwarts Hackers


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A puzzle toy.

The Morpheus secure processor works like a puzzle that keeps changing before hackers have a chance to solve it.

Credit: Alan de la Cruz/Unsplash

We have developed and tested a secure new computer processor that thwarts hackers by randomly changing its underlying structure, thus making it virtually impossible to hack.

Last summer, 525 security researchers spent three months trying to hack our Morpheus processor as well as others. All attempts against Morpheus failed. This study was part of a program sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Program Agency to design a secure processor that could protect vulnerable software. DARPA released the results on the program to the public for the first time in January 2021.

A processor is the piece of computer hardware that runs software programs. Since a processor underlies all software systems, a secure processor has the potential to protect any software running on it from attack. Our team at the University of Michigan first developed Morpheus, a secure processor that thwarts attacks by turning the computer into a puzzle, in 2019.

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