Capture the attention of trade show attendees.

SSITH Case Study

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The Project

Instead of relying on software patches, DARPA’s System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH) protects electronic systems by addressing underlying hardware vulnerabilities.

The Challenge

DARPA wanted to create an engaging exhibit to explain SSITH in an informative and inspiring way. So how do you translate a highly complex security system into an engaging experience for attendees?

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The Solution

We launched a car-driving simulator to give the audience a thrilling, visceral experience while educating them about SSITH. Attendees were presented with a security threat to the car’s electronic system that required SSITH to survive. This dramatized the security system in a tangible and memorable way.

This project included:

  • Brand Storytelling
  • Booth Posters
  • Exhibit Design & Visitor Experience
  • Car Design
  • Lighting Design
  • User Interface (UI / UX)
  • Car Production

In the simulation, attendees are invited to choose, “driver or hacker?” The driver sits in the car and is challenged to “Get to the Airport!” The hacker stands at the back of the car and attempts to stop the driver through steering, brakes, accelerator, and infotainment hacks. SSITH is the driver’s co-pilot, their secret weapon to restore control and get them to their destination safely.

The SSITH demonstrator needed to house three fragile and expensive development boards to work. The back of the car was enclosed between two thick acrylic panels like a museum display case. In addition creating a single large and vented area for the boards, it provided a mounting surface for the rear hacker screen. We also incorporated wiring and LED lights to represent information flow

Bright colorful lighting showed the state of the simulator: green for unprotected and unhacked, red for unprotected but hacked, and blue for protected by SSITH. The programmable LED strips lit up the car and captured attention.

KAIA developed two sets of separate and related interfaces: one for the driver’s view, and one for the hacker’s view. Each interface walked the user through the simulation while also creating a dramatic and memorable experience.

SSITH exhibit concept
SSITH exhibit concept
SSITH exhibit concept

A 2008 SmartCar convertible was chosen as the platform for its small size, open top, and open back layout. Control modules were mounted to the floor and 3D printed light tubes connected components. Computers were installed to run the displays and simulation and the dash was reassembled. Lastly, the car was designed with a vinyl wrap to capture the attention of attendees.

The Outcome

The exhibit created an attention-grabbing and visceral experience with clear messaging: SSITH stops system attacks. The simulation events were an unqualified success, delivering an engaging and accessible experience that informed attendees on how SSITH works. Most importantly, the professional and polished presentation impressed management and industry alike.