Paper 2019/167

Analysis of Secure Caches using a Three-Step Model for Timing-Based Attacks

Shuwen Deng, Wenjie Xiong, and Jakub Szefer


Many secure cache designs have been proposed in literature with the aim of mitigating different types of cache timing-based attacks. However, there has so far been no systematic analysis of how these secure cache designs can, or cannot, protect against different types of the timing-based attacks. To provide a means of analyzing the caches, this paper presents a novel three-step modeling approach that is used to exhaustively enumerate all the possible cache timing-based vulnerabilities. The model covers not only attacks that leverage cache accesses or flushes from the local processor core, but also attacks that leverage changes in the cache state due to the cache coherence protocol actions from remote cores. Moreover, both conventional attacks and speculative execution attacks are considered. With the list of all possible cache timing vulnerabilities derived from the three-step model, this work further manually analyzes each of the existing secure cache designs to show which types of timing-based side-channel vulnerabilities each secure cache can mitigate. Based on the security analysis of the existing secure cache designs using the new three-step model, this paper further summarizes different techniques gleaned from the secure cache designs and their ability help mitigate different types of cache timing-based vulnerabilities.

Available format(s)
Publication info
Secure CachesSide-Channel AttacksSecurity Analysis
Contact author(s)
shuwen deng @ yale edu
2019-06-24: revised
2019-02-20: received
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      author = {Shuwen Deng and Wenjie Xiong and Jakub Szefer},
      title = {Analysis of Secure Caches using a Three-Step Model for Timing-Based Attacks},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2019/167},
      year = {2019},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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