Beating Hackers the H.A.R.D. Way

Beating Hackers the H.A.R.D. Way
October 26, 2020

Teams from Lockheed Martin and Binghamton University (BU) have been helping DARPA figure out how to beat hackers at their own game by identifying a Hardware Architecture Resilient by Design (H.A.R.D.) approach.

Too many times, we read about hackers breaching cyber security systems by stealing personal data, infiltrating home security and video monitoring devices, and attempting to influence voting and election outcomes. The public needs additional security from many computer vulnerabilities gaining headline attention like Spectre and Meltdown, two CPU vulnerabilities that the Lockheed Martin Cyber team monitors.

The typical engineering method to prevent these cyberattacks is to patch the software. But the H.A.R.D. solution fixes these vulnerabilities in the hardware to provide more robust cyber protection.

The Lockheed Martin/BU team is developing micro-processor technology that will enhance and protect mission processing systems onboard planes and helicopters, in aerospace and defense segments, in automotive and entertainment industries, and within voter registration systems.

The program, called System Security Integrated Through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH), is funded through DARPA, with awards given to Lockheed Martin/BU as well as several other industry-academic teams to develop secure defense systems.

“Computer security improvements are currently addressed in software either by waiting until a flaw is discovered and then patching it or by hoping that software developers will have more training and avoid inserting flaws,” said Dr. Brian Uhlhorn, research scientist at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories. “Addressing vulnerabilities in hardware has historically been avoided because of the perception that the mechanism cost would outweigh the expense of the protection. With computer vulnerabilities getting headline attention, the demand for security from all sectors is growing dramatically.”


To get to the next level and uncover vulnerabilities, DARPA launched a contest in July 2020 for ethical hackers (i.e. cybersecurity professionals or “white hats”) to try and break into this technology using a program called Finding Exploits to Thwart Tampering (FETT) Bug Bounty before the technology becomes available for DoD and industry.

The race is on to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses and develop systems to be in place to protect critical weapon systems and platforms from cyberattacks and the DARPA SSITH team is prepared to take on these cyber threats.

Join our team working to defeat cyber threats: Visit to discover the information security role that’s perfect for you.


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