CacheShield: Protecting Legacy Processes Against Cache Attacks

Samira Briongos, Gorka Irazoqui, Pedro Malagón, Thomas Eisenbarth


Cache attacks pose a threat to any code whose execution flow or memory accesses depend on sensitive information. Especially in public clouds, where caches are shared across several tenants, cache attacks remain an unsolved problem. Cache attacks rely on evictions by the spy process, which alter the execution behavior of the victim process. We show that hardware performance events of cryptographic routines reveal the presence of cache attacks. Based on this observation, we propose CacheShield, a tool to protect legacy code by monitoring its execution and detecting the presence of cache attacks, thus providing the opportunity to take preventative measures. CacheShield can be run by users and does not require alteration of the OS or hypervisor, while previously proposed software-based countermeasures require cooperation from the hypervisor. Unlike methods that try to detect malicious processes, our approach is lean, as only a fraction of the system needs to be monitored. It also integrates well into today's cloud infrastructure, as concerned users can opt to use CacheShield without support from the cloud service provider. Our results show that CacheShield detects cache attacks fast, with high reliability, and with few false positives, even in the presence of strong noise.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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