Yinqian Zhang - The Ohio State University

Yinqian Zhang

Dec 07, 2016

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"When Side Channel Meets Row Hammer: Cache-Memory Attacks in Clouds and Mobile Devices"


Processor caches and memory chips are hardware components used by all software programs on a computer system. They are designed, and thereafter fine-tuned over the years, for better performance and power efficiency, but not for strong isolation between mutually distrustful software programs. However, modern computing paradigm has been shifting towards resource sharing without full trust: In multi-tenant public clouds, virtual machines controlled by different customers are scheduled to run on the same cloud servers; in mobile devices, untrusted third-party apps, though isolated using sandboxes, share the same devices with sensitive apps. Our research question is whether sharing of memory resources will introduce new security threats to these systems.

In this talk, we highlight a type of security threats that we call cache-memory attacks. These attacks are possible due to insufficient isolation in hardware memory resources (e.g., various levels of caches, memory controllers, buses and chips, etc.) that are shared between malevolent and sensitive software programs. We coin cache-memory attacks as the umbrella terms of side-channel attacks (i.e., confidentiality attacks), row-hammer attacks (i.e., integrity attacks) and resource contention attacks (i.e., availability attacks). We will discuss the root vulnerabilities of these attacks and their exploitation in the context of clouds and mobile devices. We will also cover some defense techniques against these attacks that we have developed over the past few years.

About the Speaker

Dr. Yinqian Zhang is an assistant professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. His research topics range over various fields in security, including cloud and mobile security, hardware-assisted security, user authentication and anonymous communication. He is known for his work in side-channel attacks and defenses in multi-tenant cloud computing.

Unless otherwise noted, the security seminar is held on Wednesdays at 4:30P.M. STEW G52 (Suite 050B), West Lafayette Campus. More information...