Application Memory Isolation on Ultra-Low-Power MCUs

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Taylor Hardin, Dartmouth College; Ryan Scott, Clemson University; Patrick Proctor, Dartmouth College; Josiah Hester, Northwestern University; Jacob Sorber, Clemson University; David Kotz, Dartmouth College


The proliferation of applications that handle sensitive user data on wearable platforms generates a critical need for embedded systems that offer strong security without sacrificing flexibility and long battery life. To secure sensitive information, such as health data, ultra-low-power wearables must isolate applications from each other and protect the underlying system from errant or malicious application code. These platforms typically use microcontrollers that lack sophisticated Memory Management Units (MMU). Some include a Memory Protection Unit (MPU), but current MPUs are inadequate to the task, leading platform developers to software-based memory-protection solutions. In this paper, we present our memory isolation technique, which leverages compiler inserted code and MPU-hardware support to achieve better runtime performance than software-only counterparts.

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@inproceedings {215981,
author = {Taylor Hardin and Ryan Scott and Patrick Proctor and Josiah Hester and Jacob Sorber and David Kotz},
title = {Application Memory Isolation on Ultra-Low-Power MCUs},
booktitle = {2018 {USENIX} Annual Technical Conference ({USENIX} {ATC} 18)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {ISBN 978-1-939133-01-4},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {127--132},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = jul,

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