The Pwnie Awards is an annual awards ceremony celebrating the achievements and failures of security researchers and the security community. The awards are given out once an year, and this year the annual ceremony will take place during the virtual Blackhat 2020 conference.
The project “TRRespass: When Memory Vendors Tell You Their Chips Are Rowhammer-free, They Are Not”, has won a Pwine Award for the category “Most Innovative Research”. This award goes every year to the researcher or team who published the most interesting and innovative research in the form of a paper, presentation, tool or even a mailing list post. This year, Cristiano Giuffrida, Herbet Bos and Kaveh Razavi, UNICORE members, are part of the winning team, along with Pietro Frigo, Emanuele Vannacci, Victor van der Veen and Onur Mutlu.
This project began with two years of reverse engineering that revealed that TRR is not protecting us from Rowhammer at all. Once it became clear how the defense worked in detail, it also became trivial to bypass it and it turns out that so-called Rowhammer-free DRAM chips, from all major vendors, are even more vulnerable to Rowhammer than older DDR3 memory. Since firmware fixes are not possible for memory chips, software solutions are have prohibitive overheads, and once deployed DRAM stays in use for years, Rowhammer will remain a major threat for a long time still. The research community also awarded this project with a best paper award at the IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy.