Cloud security system for defending against memory-access attacks implemented in silicon chips

In the last 10 years, computer security researchers have shown that malicious hackers don’t need to see your data in order to steal your data. From the pattern in which your computer accesses its memory banks, adversaries can infer a shocking amount about what’s stored there.

The risk of such attacks is particularly acute in the cloud, where you have no control over whose applications are sharing server space with yours. An antagonist could load up multiple cloud servers with small programs that do nothing but spy on other people’s data.

Two years ago, researchers in the group of CSAIL's Srini Devadas proposed a method for thwarting these types of attacks by disguising memory-access patterns. Now, they’ve begun to implement it in hardware.

In March, at the Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems conference, they presented the layout of a custom-built chip that would use their scheme, which is now moving into fabrication. And at the IEEE International Symposium on Field-Programmable Custom Computing Machines in May, they will describe some additional improvements to the scheme, which they’ve tested on reconfigurable chips.

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