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Lockdown: Towards a Safe and Practical Architecture for Security Applications on Commodity Platforms

Amit Vasudevan
Bryan Parno
Ning Qu
Virgil D. Gligor
Adrian Perrig
TRUST 2012, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pp. 21


We investigate a new point in the design space of red/green systems [19,30], which provide the user with a highly-protected, yet also highly-constrained trusted (“green”) environment for performing security-sensitive transactions, as well as a high-performance, general-purpose environment for all other (non-security-sensitive or “red”) applications. Through the design and implementation of the Lockdown architecture, we evaluate whether partitioning, rather than virtualizing, resources and devices can lead to better security or performance for red/green systems. We also design a simple external interface to allow the user to securely learn which environment is active and easily switch between them. We find that partitioning offers a new tradeoff between security, performance, and usability. On the one hand, partitioning can improve the security of the “green” environment and the performance of the “red” environment (as compared with a virtualized solution). On the other hand, with current systems, partitioning makes switching between environments quite slow (13-31 seconds), which may prove intolerable to users.