MicroWalk: A Framework for Finding Side Channels in Binaries

Jan Wichelmann, Ahmad Moghimi, Thomas Eisenbarth, Berk Sunar


Microarchitectural side channels expose unprotected software to information leakage attacks where a software adversary is able to track runtime behavior of a benign process and steal secrets such as cryptographic keys. As suggested by incremental software patches for RSA algorithm against variants of side-channel attacks within different versions of cryptographic libraries, protecting securitycritical algorithms against side channels is an intricate task. Software protections avoid leakages by operating in constant time with a uniform resource usage pattern independent of the processed secret. With this respect, automated testing and verification of software binaries for leakage-free behavior is of importance, particularly when the source code is not available. In this work, we propose a novel technique based on Dynamic Binary Instrumentation and Mutual Information Analysis to efficiently locate and quantify memory based and control-flow based microarchitectural leakages. We develop a software framework named MicroWalk for side-channel analysis of binaries which can be extended to support new classes of leakage. For the first time, by utilizing MicroWalk, we perform rigorous leakage analysis of two widely-used closed-source cryptographic libraries: Intel IPP and Microsoft CNG. We analyze 15 different cryptographic implementations consisting of 112 million instructions in about 105 minutes of CPU time. By locating previously unknown leakages in hardened implementations, our results suggest that MicroWalk can efficiently find microarchitectural leakages in software binaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161 - 173
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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