Benjamin Tan, Ph.D.

Ph.D. (Computer Systems Engineering), University of Auckland, New Zealand
BE(Hons) (Computer Systems Engineering), University of Auckland, New Zealand

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Areas of Research

Hardware for Security
The general trend for computing systems these days is for increased integration: add more cores and more software/firmware into a system-on-chip (SoC)! While the SoC approach provides new ways for achieving application-specific requirements through customization, the use of 3rd party IPs and increasing overall complexity can lead to potential security threats. In this line of work, I am broadly interested in coming up with new design flows and architectures that improve security. Naturally, nothing is free -- so working out how to specify security objectives and achieve them while also satisfying other requirements is the name of the game. Can we add new structures to monitor and patch security violations in digital designs?
Security of Hardware
Hardware lies at the foundation of all computing systems -- processors, accelerators, memories -- securing hardware from attackers is paramount. There are several problems in hardware security, including detecting hardware Trojans, Intellectual Property (IP) protection (e.g., reverse engineering), and side-channel attacks. How do we deal with such challenges? Can we detect hardware bugs in RTL designs and help designers? Can we protect designs from reverse-engineering? How will the increasing capabilities of AI/ML affect hardware security? Increasing predictive capability can help with challenges like Trojan detection or malware classification. However, there is an opportunity for AI/ML to devise new strategies for attack and defense. In this line of work, I'm interested in seeing how we can formulate hardware security problems so that AI agents can start exploring the design space. This could extend to areas of research, such as logic locking, in which I have taken a recent interest.
Embedded Systems
Computers are everywhere! We expect a lot of things of our embedded computers; they need to be efficient, reliable, and secure. How do we balance different application requirements while making sure that we satisfy real-time constraints, minimize resource overhead, and achieve other system objectives? I'm interested in all things broadly "embedded", including the Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical applications. If you have interests/experience in a specific application domain and want to think about how we can design those systems to be more secure.... let's talk.

Supervising degrees

Electrical and Computer Engineering - Masters: Accepting Inquiries
Electrical and Computer Engineering - Doctoral: Accepting Inquiries

Working with this supervisor

Applicants with backgrounds in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, or Computer Science could be a good fit with me. You should have experience with programming and/or hardware design (VHDL, Verilog, or SystemVerilog). The most important things are a willingness to wrestle with technical challenges and a strong sense of curiosity about computer systems. Experience with cybersecurity is welcome, but not a prerequisite. 

If you want to work with me, please describe your research interests and possible alignment with my research program in your initial contact. I am interested to know your aspirations and am happy to mentor students towards fulfilling careers in academia or industry. I aim to support each individual's sense of work-life balance and tailor my supervision for you as you mature in research. 

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