Fight Hardware with Hardware: System-wide Detection and Mitigation of Side-Channel Attacks using Performance Counters

Stefano Carnà, Serena Ferracci, Francesco Quaglia, and Alessandro Pellegrini


Published in: Digital Threats: Research and Practice, 2022
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Abstract:
We present a kernel-level infrastructure that allows system-wide detection of malicious applications attempting to exploit cache-based side-channel attacks to break the process confinement enforced by standard operating systems. This infrastructure relies on hardware performance counters to collect information at runtime from all applications running on the machine. High-level detection metrics are derived from these measurements to maximize the likelihood of promptly detecting a malicious application. Our experimental assessment shows that we can catch a large family of side-channel attacks with a significantly reduced overhead in the system. We also discuss countermeasures that can be enacted once a process is suspected of carrying out a side-channel attack to increase the overall tradeoff between the system’s security level and the delivered performance under non-suspected process executions.

BibTeX Entry:

@article{Car22,
author = {Carnà, Stefano and Ferracci, Serena and Quaglia, Francesco and Pellegrini, Alessandro},
journal = {Digital Threats: Research and Practice},
title = {Fight Hardware with Hardware: System-wide Detection and Mitigation of Side-Channel Attacks using Performance Counters},
year = {2022},
publisher = {ACM},
series = {DTRAP},
note = {To appear}
}