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Downfall: Exploiting Speculative Data Gathering

USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX (2023)


We introduce Downfall attacks, new transient execution attacks that undermine the security of computers running everywhere across the internet. We exploit the gather instruction on high-performance x86 CPUs to leak data across boundaries of user-kernel, processes, virtual machines, and trusted execution environments. We also develop practical and end-to-end attacks to steal cryptographic keys, program’s runtime data, and even data at rest (arbitrary data). Our findings, exploitation techniques, and demonstrated attacks defeat all previous defenses, calling for critical hardware fixes and security updates for widely-used client and server computers.