DAGguise: Mitigating Memory Timing Side Channels

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This paper studies the mitigation of memory timing side channels, where attackers utilize contention within DRAM controllers to infer a victim’s secrets. Already practical, this class of channels poses an important challenge to secure computing in shared memory environments.

Existing state-of-the-art memory timing side channel mitigations have several key performance and security limitations. Prior schemes require onerous static bandwidth partitioning, extensive profiling phases, or simply fail to protect against attacks which exploit fine-grained timing and bank information.

We present DAGguise, a defense mechanism which fully protects against memory timing side channels while allowing for dynamic traffic contention in order to achieve good performance. DAGguise utilizes a novel abstract memory access representation, the Directed Acyclic Request Graph (𝑟DAG for short), to model memory access patterns which experience contention. DAGguise shapes a victim’s memory access patterns according to a publicly known 𝑟 DAG obtained through a lightweight profiling stage, completely eliminating information leakage.

We formally verify the security of DAGguise, proving that it maintains strong security guarantees. Moreover, by allowing dynamic traffic contention, DAGguise achieves a 12% overall system speedup relative to Fixed Service, which is the state-of-the-art mitigation mechanism, with up to a 20% relative speedup for co-located applications which do not require protection. We further claim that the principles of DAGguise can be generalized to protect against other types of scheduler-based timing side channels, such as those targeting on-chip networks, or functional units in SMT cores.


Peter W. Deutsch (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Yuheng Yang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Thomas Bourgeat (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Jules Drean (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Mengjia Yan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

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