Determinating Timing Channels in Compute Clouds

Amittai Aviram, Sen Hu, Bryan Ford, Ramakrishna Gummadi
Yale University, University of Massachusetts Amherst

ACM Cloud Computing Security Workshop (CCSW 2010),
October 8, 2010, Chicago, IL, USA


Timing side-channels represent an insidious security challenge for cloud computing, because: (a) massive parallelism in the cloud makes timing channels pervasive and hard to control; (b) timing channels enable one customer to steal information from another without leaving a trail or raising alarms; (c) only the cloud provider can feasibly detect and report such attacks, but the provider's incentives are not to; and (d) resource partitioning schemes for timing channel control undermine statistical sharing efficiency, and, with it, the cloud computing business model. We propose a new approach to timing channel control, using provider-enforced deterministic execution instead of resource partitioning to eliminate timing channels within a shared cloud domain. Provider-enforced determinism prevents execution timing from affecting the results of a compute task, however large or parallel, ensuring that a task's outputs leak no timing information apart from explicit timing inputs and total compute duration. Experiments with a prototype OS for deterministic cloud computing suggest that such an approach may be practical and efficient. The OS supports deterministic versions of familiar APIs such as processes, threads, shared memory, and file systems, and runs coarse-grained parallel tasks as efficiently and scalably as current timing channel-ridden systems.

Paper: PDF • Slides: OpenOffice, PDF

This research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation under grant CNS-1017206.