CSE researchers win Distinguished Paper Award at CCS 2023

CSE authors were recognized for the excellence of their paper on security verification of low-trust computing architectures.
CSE Prof. Todd Austin, Princeton PhD student Qinhan Tan, and CSE PhD student Yonathan Fisseha stand in front of screen with a black curtain behind it. The title of their paper and school logos appear on the screen.
From left, CSE Prof. Todd Austin, Princeton PhD student Qinhan Tan, and CSE PhD student Yonathan Fisseha present their work at the CCS 2023 conference in Copenhagen.

CSE researchers have received a Distinguished Paper Award at the 2023 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS) for their paper titled “Security Verification of Low-Trust Architectures.” The paper was authored by CSE PhD students Yonathan Fisseha and Shibo Chen, recent CSE alum Lauren Biernacki, S. Jack Hu Collegiate Professor of CSE Todd Austin, and Prof. Jean-Baptiste Jeannin, in collaboration with researchers from Princeton University.

CCS is the flagship conference of the ACM Special Interest Group on Security, Audit, and Control (SIGSAC) and the leading international forum for new research in computer and information security. The annual conference provides an opportunity for security experts from across academic and industry to convene and share their latest ideas and findings in this area. CCS 2023 took place November 26-30 in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

The CCS Distinguished Paper Award is a selective honor, awarded to just five of the hundreds of papers presented at the conference each year. It recognizes outstanding and groundbreaking contributions to the computer security field. 

The above paper by CSE researchers was chosen for this honor due to its significance in advancing the security of low-trust architectures. Low-trust architectures consist of entirely encrypted data, which significantly reduces the level of hardware trust. To ensure adequate security in this context, the authors developed a formal verification method using instruction-level proofs, resulting in a “proof obligation” on the hardware that can be verified by model checking.

They then implemented their verification method in a specific low-trust architecture, the Sequestered Encryption (SE) architecture, through which they demonstrated that their design provides protection against security threats including data disclosures and side channel attacks. In all, their work provides a proven method of ensuring and formalling verifying security in low-trust architectures, a significant advance in this area.

With this award, Prof. Austin has now received Distinguished Paper awards at the two top security conferences: CCS in 2023 and the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in 2016.