HyperDegrade: From GHz to MHz Effective CPU Frequencies


Alejandro Cabrera Aldaya and Billy Bob Brumley, Tampere University


Performance degradation techniques are an important complement to side-channel attacks. In this work, we propose HYPERDEGRADE—a combination of previous approaches and the use of simultaneous multithreading (SMT) architectures. In addition to the new technique, we investigate the root causes of performance degradation using cache eviction, discovering a previously unknown slowdown origin. The slowdown produced is significantly higher than previous approaches, which translates into an increased time granularity for FLUSH+RELOAD attacks. We evaluate HYPERDEGRADE on different Intel microarchitectures, yielding significant slowdowns that achieve, in select microbenchmark cases, three orders of magnitude improvement over state-of-the-art. To evaluate the efficacy of performance degradation in side-channel amplification, we propose and evaluate leakage assessment metrics. The results evidence that HYPERDEGRADE increases time granularity without a meaningful impact on trace quality. Additionally, we designed a fair experiment that compares three performance degradation strategies when coupled with FLUSH+RELOAD from an attacker perspective. We developed an attack on an unexploited vulnerability in OpenSSL in which HYPERDEGRADE excels—reducing by three times the number of required FLUSH+RELOAD traces to succeed. Regarding cryptography contributions, we revisit the recently proposed Raccoon attack on TLS-DH key exchanges, demonstrating its application to other protocols. Using HYPERDEGRADE, we developed an end-to-end attack that shows how a Raccoon-like attack can succeed with real data, filling a missing gap from previous research.

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@inproceedings {277256,
author = {Alejandro Cabrera Aldaya and Billy Bob Brumley},
title = {{HyperDegrade}: From {GHz} to {MHz} Effective {CPU} Frequencies},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-31-1},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {2801--2818},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity22/presentation/aldaya},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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