A long overdue congratulations to Dr. Peter Tueller for successfully defending his Ph.D.
Peter joined our group in Fall 2016 despite me doing one of the worst recruiting jobs ever. He was doing outstanding undergraduate research to build a fleet of underwater vehicles. Around the same time, we were developing localization algorithms for swarms of underwater vehicles. It seemed like a perfect fit! I saw his UCSD graduate application many times — several colleagues forwarded it to me saying that I should make sure not to miss it. At the time I was on a sabbatical and not looking to take on more students. After the third or fourth time of someone telling me I should check out his application, I finally got around to it. I made him a very late offer, which was right before visit day. I asked if he could come and stick around another day so that I could meet him as I was traveling during the official visit days (again, I wasn’t planning on taking students that year).
Our first meeting still sticks in my mind. We met up at a taco restaurant in La Jolla Shores. I figured I didn’t have much of a shot at convincing him to come to UCSD. I was apologizing for making a late offer, not being a visit day, etc., but also trying my best to convince him that I was still really interested in working with him. I was doing a terrible job of recruiting him. But he rather nonchalantly stated that he was planning to come to UCSD. Lucky me!
Peter had a Ph.D. career that I will forever be jealous of. He spent a couple of months at the University of Haifa in Israel working with Roee Diamant on an underwater sonar project. He made expeditions to Guatemala to perform 3D scanning at the archaeological sites of El Zotz and Tikal. He worked most summers at NIWC Pacific developing different underwater technologies. He was the leader and driving force behind getting the FishSense project up and running. He got a SMART scholarship that allowed him to pursue Ph.D. research largely of his choosing related to 3D vision systems. This allowed him to move directly into a job at NIWC after graduation, which was what he wanted to do all along.
And all of this was done as a second career to being a rock star.
Despite being a rock star, Peter was a cool and calming influence on our group. I always looked forward to our weekly meetings — great research discussion and lots of laughs. He was a tremendous mentor to undergraduates and the other new members of our research group.
Congrats Dr. Tueller! You will be missed. Keep on rocking!
The Smartfin project was highlighted in a ThisWeek@UCSD article. The Smartfin holds a microcontroller, temperature sensor, inertial measurement unit, and wireless radio — all embedded into a surfboard fin. This allows surfers to opportunistically gather oceanographic data in the near-shore environment, which is otherwise challenging for more traditionally sensors on buoys and moorings. Engineers for Exploration students are working this summer as part of the NSF-funded REU Site to solidify the data collection process, and develop in-house ability to manufacture Smartfins in a low-cost and open-source manner.
Francesco Restuccia was invited to give a talk at the June 2022 edition of hardware.io — a conference dedicated towards showcasing novel hardware attacks and training the security community to defend against those attacks. Francesco’s talk details how the popular on-chip communication protocol is prone to attacks against the security and safety of on-chip resources. The attacks take advantage of inadequacies in the protocol, which was developed for high-speed communications, and not necessarily designed with safety and security in mind. For more details, check out his talk in its entiretly.
One of the biggest challenges in hardware security verification is developing formal properties that can subsequently be verified by automated tools. This is a difficult and time-consuming task typically assigned to security verification engineers that must manually sort through hundreds of thousands of lines of a hardware description.
Congratulations to Olivia Weng for being awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The NSF GRF is one of the most prestigious graduate fellowships in the US. The fellowship will fund Liv for the remainder of her PhD allowing her to continue her research on the co-design of efficient, fault-tolerant computer architectures for applications in high-energy physics. One example is the Large Hadron Collider, where physicists need hardware that will process millions of particle collisions per second. Her research will allow their hardware, and the machine learning software that runs on it, to meet these intense computing demands while handing faults that are inherent in such sensors.
Smartfin is an oceanographic sensor–equipped surfboard fin and citizen science program aimed to provide an increase of coastal ocean observations. Smartfins are used by surfers and paddlers in surf zone and nearshore regions to provide valuable oceanographic data in these challenging to sample ecosystems. Smartfin measures temperature, motion, and wet/dry sensing, GPS location, and cellular data transmission capabilities for the near-real-time monitoring of coastal physics and environmental parameters.
Over 300 Smartfins have been distributed around the world and have been in use for up to five years. The technology has been proven to be a useful scientific research tool in the coastal ocean—especially for observing spatiotemporal variability, validating remotely sensed data, and characterizing surface water depth profiles when combined with other tools—and the project has yielded promising results in terms of formal and informal education and community engagement in coastal health issues with broad international reach.
Our recent research article in the Continental Shelf Research journal describes the technology, the citizen science project design, and the results in terms of natural and social science analyses. We also discuss progress toward our outreach, education, and scientific goals. Congrats to Phil Bresnahan and all the authors!
Design space exploration aims to quickly determine the design parameters that yield the best results. In software, the designer must set algorithmic and performance parameters, e.g., thresholds, bounds, and other input parameters that provide the best output in terms of accuracy and runtime. In hardware design, the designer must determine parameters related to pipelining, memory architecture, and data types to give the best tradeoff between resource usage and performance. In both cases, one wants to quickly understand the relationship between the input and outputs and find the Pareto set of designs.
Sherlock is a DSE framework that can handle multiple conflicting optimization objectives and aggressively focuses on finding Pareto optimal solutions. Sherlock integrates a model selection process to choose the regression model that helps reach the optimal solution faster. Sherlock designs a strategy based around the Multi-Armed Bandit (MAB) problem, opting to balance exploration and exploitation based on the learned and expected results. Sherlock can decrease the importance of models that do not provide correct estimates, reaching the optimal design faster. Sherlock is capable of tailoring its choice of regression models to the problem at hand, leading to a model that best reflects the application design space
“Sherlock: A Multi-Objective Design Space Exploration Framework” was recently published in the ACM Transactions on Design Automation of Electronic Systems (TODAES). Congrats to the authors Quentin Gautier, Alric Althoff, Chris Crutchfield, and Ryan Kastner. The Sherlock algorithm was also released as open-source. We plan to use it in the future to tune machine learning models for optimized hardware implementations and tune algorithmic parameters for aerial tracking project. We hope that others will find is similarly useful!
Dr. Francesco Restuccia was awarded a UCSD CSE Postdoc Fellowship to return to UCSD to develop safe and secure system-on-chip architectures.
Francesco is very familiar with UCSD (and vice versa). He spent about 9 months here as a visiting PhD student from January – August 2020. Despite much of his time here being under lockdown, he was incredibly productive. Francesco developed the Aker security verification framework for system on a chip (SoC) access control that was published in ICCAD 2021. Additionally, Francesco worked on another project to develop a makeshift ventilator system in response to the pandemic (see IEEE Embedded Systems Letter for more info).
Francesco will continue his work on developing safe and secure electronic systems, in particular, we aim to explore the use of program synthesis for secure system generation in collaboration with Sean Gao and Nadia Polikarpova. Be on the look out for some more VeriSketch-like research lead by Francesco.
Amazon, Baidu, Microsoft, and other cloud providers now allow one to rent FPGAs and use them to implement powerful and efficient custom architectures for machine learning, video transcoding, encryption, networking, and other high throughput computations. Those FPGAs are large, and quite very expensive, which brings about the natural question: can we virtualize the FPGA across multiple users and maximize their usage? And more importantly, what are the security implications of two tenants sharing the same physical FPGA device?
In our DAC 2021 paper “Classifying Computations on Multi-Tenant FPGA“, we show that a co-tenant can implement a relatively simple circuit time-to-digital converter (TDC) on one part of the FPGA and use that to determine types of computation occurring on another part of the FPGA. The TDC measures small changes in how a signal propagates through a carry chain. If the co-tenant computation is using a lot of power, this creates a side channel via the power supply rail that will slow down the propagation of the signal in the carry chain. We show that his subtle information can be used to
This includes determining if there is another co-tenant, if that co-tenant is performing encryption, whether the co-tenant is utilizing a soft processor, and other questions that violate the confidentiality of the co-tenant. This a necessary precursor for performing attacks in a virtualized FPGA environment, where an attacker must identify a co-located core before performing an attack, or defending against them, where a provider recognizes malicious cores and terminates service
Kastner Research Group alum Dr. Jason Oberg was given the DAC Under-40 Innovators Award. The award recognizes the top young innovators who have made a significant impact in the field of electronics design and automation.
Jason is a leader in the hardware security community. Jason’s PhD work helped lay the foundation for hardware information flow tracking. After his PhD, he commercialized this research as co-founder and CEO of Tortuga Logic. Hardware information flow tracking is now a key part of hardware security validation used in top semiconductor companies in a large part due to Jason’s strategic and technical guidance. Jason is currently is CTO at Tortuga, and continues to drive many of the innovations there and in the broader hardware security community.
I met Jason at UC Santa Barbara back when I was a professor there. Jason was a floppy-haired surfer fresh from Hawaii, but also an outstanding undergraduate researcher. He worked with Bridget Benson in developing the early version of the AquaModem. Shortly thereafter, I moved to UC San Diego and convinced Jason to follow me there for his PhD. Jason worked on a lot of different topics. He eventually settled on hardware security.
Jason’s hair has gotten a lot less floppy, but the psyche still remains. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him over the years, and look forward to all the great things that he will undoubtedly do in the future.