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Timing channel protection for a shared memory controller

Yao Wang
Andrew Ferraiuolo
G Edward Suh
IEEE 20th International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture (HPCA) (2014), pp. 225-236


This paper proposes a new memory controller design that enables secure sharing of main memory among mutually mistrusting parties by eliminating memory timing channels. This study demonstrates that shared memory controllers are vulnerable to both side channel and covert channel attacks that exploit memory interference as timing channels. To address this vulnerability, we identify the sources of interference in a conventional memory controller design, and propose a protection scheme to eliminate the interference across security domains through two main changes: (i) a per security domain based queueing structure, and (ii) static allocation of time slots in the scheduling algorithm. Multi-programmed workloads comprised of SPEC2006 benchmarks were used to evaluate the protection scheme. The results show that the proposed scheme completely eliminates the timing channels in the shared memory with small hardware and performance overheads.