MS Thesis Presentation by Daniel (Ahmad) Moghimi

Friday, April 21, 2017
11:00 am
Floor/Room #: 
AK 218

Research Advisor:

Professor Thomas Eisenbarth
ECE Department, WPI


Thesis Reader:

Professor Robert Walls
CS Department, WPI



Side-Channel Attacks on Intel SGX: How SGX Amplifies The Power of Cache Attacks



In modern computing environments, hardware resources are commonly shared, and parallel computation is more widely used. Users run their services in parallel on the same hardware and process information with different confidentiality levels every day. Running parallel tasks can cause privacy and security problems if proper isolation is not enforced. Computers need to rely on a trusted root to protect the data from malicious entities. Intel proposed the Software Guard eXtension (SGX) to create a trusted execution environment (TEE) within the processor. SGX allows developers to benefit from the hardware level isolation.

SGX relies only on the hardware, and claims security even if the OS and other software components are malicious. However, SGX disregards any kind of side-channel attacks. Researchers have demonstrated that microarchitectural side-channels are very effective in thwarting the hardware provided isolation. In scenarios that involve SGX as part of their defense mechanism, system adversaries become important threats, and they are capable of initiating these attacks.

This work introduces a new and more powerful cache side-channel attack that provides system adversaries a high resolution channel. The developed attack is able to virtually track all memory accesses of SGX execution with temporal precision. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate our attack to recover cryptographic AES keys from the commonly used implementations including those that were believed to be resistant in previous attack scenarios. Our results show that SGX cannot protect critical data sensitive computations, and efficient AES key recovery is possible in a practical environment. This is the first cache side-channel attack on a real system that can recover AES keys with a minimal number of measurements. We can successfully recover the AES key from T-Table based implementations in a known plaintext and ciphertext scenario with an average of 15 and 7 samples respectively.