Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2020/637

DABANGG: Time for Fearless Flush based Cache Attacks

Anish Saxena and Biswabandan Panda

Abstract: Flush based cache attacks like Flush+Reload and Flush+Flush are one of the highly effective cache attacks. In fact, the Flush+Flush attack is stealthy too. Most of the flush based attacks provide high accuracy in controlled environments where attacker and victim are the only two processes that are running on a system by sharing OS pages. However, we observe that these attacks lose their effectiveness (prone to low accuracy) on a noisy multi-core system where co-running applications run along with the attacker and the victim. Two root causes for the varying accuracy of flush based attacks are: (i) the dynamic nature of core frequencies that fluctuate depending on the system load, and (ii) the relative placement of victim and attacker threads in the processor (same logical core, same physical core, different physical cores). The variation in the processor frequencies and placement of threads affect one of the critical attack steps (the cache latency calibration step as the latency threshold set to distinguish a cache hit from a miss becomes inaccurate). We propose a set of refinements (DABANGG refinements) to make existing flush attacks resilient to frequency changes and thread placement in the processor, and therefore system noise. We propose refinements to pre-attack and attack steps and make it conscious about the latency change. We evaluate DABANGG-enabled Flush+Reload and Flush+Flush attacks (DABANGG+Flush+Reload and DABANGG+Flush+Flush, respectively) against the standard Flush+Reload and Flush+Flush attacks across four scenarios for eight different combinations of system noise capturing different levels of compute, memory, and I/O noise intensities: (i) a side-channel attack based on user input (single-character and multi-character key-logging), (ii) a side-channel on AES, (iii) a covert-channel, and a (iv) transient execution attack in the form the Spectre attack. For all the scenarios, DABANGG+Flush+Reload and DABANGG+Flush+Flush outperform the standard Flush+Reload and Flush+Flush attacks in terms of F1-score and accuracy.

Category / Keywords: implementation / Flush attacks, side-channels, cache attacks

Date: received 28 May 2020, last revised 3 Jun 2020

Contact author: biswap at cse iitk ac in

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Version: 20200603:111756 (All versions of this report)

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