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Verification of a Practical Hardware Security Architecture Through Static Information Flow Analysis

Andrew Ferraiuolo
Rui Xu
Danfeng Zhang
Andrew C. Myers
G. Edward Suh
International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS) (2017)


Hardware-based mechanisms for software isolation are becoming increasingly popular, but implementing these mechanisms correctly has proved difficult, undermining the root of security. This work introduces an effective way to formally verify important properties of such hardware security mechanisms. In our approach, hardware is developed using a lightweight security-typed hardware description language (HDL) that performs static information flow analysis. We show the practicality of our approach by implementing and verifying a simplified but realistic multi-core prototype of the ARM TrustZone architecture. To make the security-typed HDL expressive enough to verify a realistic processor, we develop new type system features. Our experiments suggest that information flow analysis is efficient, and programmer effort is modest. We also show that information flow constraints are an effective way to detect hardware vulnerabilities, including several found in commercial processors.