Opportunistic Data Flow Integrity for Real-time Cyber-physical Systems Using Worst Case Execution Time Reservation


Yujie Wang, Ao Li, Jinwen Wang, Sanjoy Baruah, and Ning Zhang, Washington University in St. Louis


With the proliferation of safety-critical real-time systems in our daily life, it is imperative that their security is protected to guarantee their functionalities. To this end, one of the most powerful modern security primitives is the enforcement of data flow integrity. However, the run-time overhead can be prohibitive for real-time cyber-physical systems. On the other hand, due to strong safety requirements on such real-time cyber-physical systems, platforms are often designed with enough reservation such that the system remains real-time even if it is experiencing the worst-case execution time. We conducted a measurement study on eight popular CPS systems and found the worst-case execution time is often at least five times the average run time.

In this paper, we propose opportunistic data flow integrity, OP-DFI, that takes advantage of the system reservation to enforce data flow integrity to the CPS software. To avoid impacting the real-time property, OP-DFI tackles the challenge of slack estimation and run-time policy swapping to take advantage of the extra time in the system opportunistically. To ensure the security protection remains coherent, OP-DFI leverages in-line reference monitors and hardware-assisted features to perform dynamic fine-grained sandboxing. We evaluated OP-DFI on eight real-time CPS. With a worst-case execution time overhead of 2.7%, OP-DFI effectively performs DFI checking on 95.5% of all memory operations and 99.3% of safety-critical control-related memory operations on average.

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