Vulnerability Analysis of On-Chip Access-Control Memory


Chintan Chavda and Ethan C. Ahn, University of Texas at San Antonio; Yu-Sheng Chen, Industrial Technology Research Institute; Youngjae Kim, Sogang University; Kalidas Ganesh and Junghee Lee, University of Texas at San Antonio


Encryption is often employed to protect sensitive information stored in memory and storage. It is the most powerful countermeasure against data breach, but it has performance overhead. As a low-cost alternative to encryption, an access-control memory (ACM) has been introduced, which integrates an access-control mechanism with memory. While ACM minimizes the performance overhead of encryption, it provides similar levels of security as to encryption method. ACM reveals information only when the access codes are correct. However, if an adversary attempts to access data directly from memory cells through a physical attack without going through a standard interface, the vulnerability could occur. This paper discusses feasibility and countermeasures for physical attacks, including fault injection attack, power analysis attack, chip modification, microprobing, and imaging for ACM. Moreover, as a concrete example of ACM, we compare the security aspects of SSDs when the write buffers in the SSDs employ ACM with emerging non-volatile memories such as STTRAM, PRAM, and RRAM.

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@inproceedings {203366,
author = {Chintan Chavda and Ethan C. Ahn and Yu-Sheng Chen and Youngjae Kim and Kalidas Ganesh and Junghee Lee},
title = {Vulnerability Analysis of On-Chip Access-Control Memory},
booktitle = {9th {USENIX} Workshop on Hot Topics in Storage and File Systems (HotStorage 17)},
year = {2017},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},