[PAST EVENT] Microarchitecture Security: Invisible Things in CPU that Can Get You Hacked 

September 21, 2018
3pm - 4pm
McGlothlin-Street Hall, Room 020
251 Jamestown Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Access & Features
  • Open to the public

Abstract: Modern CPUs rely on a large number of mechanisms, such as caches, prefetchers, predictor and others, designed to improve performance. These mechanisms help to avoid costly CPU stalls and to achieve uninterrupted instruction delivery to execution units, guaranteeing high throughput and low latency. However, recent studies demonstrated that these mechanisms can introduce serious security threats which can result in cryptographic keys leakage, control hijack, bypassing various security features and arbitrary memory reads by an adversary. Examples of such attacks include side channels, covert channels and speculative execution based attacks. Earlier this year researchers reported about a set of serious hardware vulnerabilities, known as Spectre and Meltdown which affected billions of devices worldwide. The attacks are based on exploiting the side effects in low-level implementation features of several hardware mechanisms. Combining these side effects together allows constructing a powerful attack capable of breaking nearly all security properties on a typical machine. While some variations of these attacks are easy to mitigate, fixing others, that exploit the very fundamental properties of today's CPUs present a significant challenge. As hardware and software manufacturers are currently focused on developing ad-hoc patches, a more structural and systematic solution is needed. This opens new horizons for microarchitecture security research. In this talk we will discuss various attacks on branch predictor, one of the key CPU mechanisms. We will talk about the design considerations that made the attacks possible, the evolution of attacks and how the discovery of branch predictor side channels ultimately lead to finding Spectre vulnerabilities. In addition we will outline the future research challenges and possible solutions.

Bio: Dmitry Evtyushkin received his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Binghamton University in 2017. He received his undergraduate degree from Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics, Moscow, Russia, in 2011. His research interests are in the areas of computer security, computer architecture and secure system design, with specific focus on side channel and covert channel attacks, protections against them and hardware support for security. His work was published in leading conferences and journals, including MICRO, CCS, ASPLOS, TDSC and others.


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