NVLeak: Off-Chip Side-Channel Attacks via Non-Volatile Memory Systems


Zixuan Wang, UC San Diego; Mohammadkazem Taram, Purdue University and UC San Diego; Daniel Moghimi, UT Austin and UC San Diego; Steven Swanson, Dean Tullsen, and Jishen Zhao, UC San Diego


We study microarchitectural side-channel attacks and defenses on non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) DIMMs. In this study, we first perform reverse-engineering of NVRAMs as implemented by the Intel Optane DIMM and reveal several of its previously undocumented microarchitectural details: on-DIMM cache structures (NVCache) and wear-leveling policies. Based on these findings, we first develop cross-core and cross-VM covert channels to establish the channel capacity of these shared hardware resources. Then, we devise NVCache-based side channels under the umbrella of NVLeak. We apply NVLeak to a series of attack case studies, including compromising the privacy of databases and key-value storage backed by NVRAM and spying on the execution path of code pages when NVRAM is used as a volatile runtime memory. Our results show that side-channel attacks exploiting NVRAM are practical and defeat previously-proposed defense that only focuses on on-chip hardware resources. To fill this gap in defense, we develop system-level mitigations based on cache partitioning to prevent side-channel leakage from NVCache.

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@inproceedings {285359,
author = {Zixuan Wang and Mohammadkazem Taram and Daniel Moghimi and Steven Swanson and Dean Tullsen and Jishen Zhao},
title = {{NVLeak}: {Off-Chip} {Side-Channel} Attacks via {Non-Volatile} Memory Systems},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {6771--6788},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity23/presentation/wang-zixuan},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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