POWERT channels: A novel class of covert communication exploiting power management vulnerabilities

S. Karen Khatamifard, Longfei Wang, Amitabh Das, Selcuk Kose, Ulya R. Karpuzcu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

To be able to meet demanding application performance requirements within a tight power budget, runtime power management must track hardware activity at a very fine granularity in both space and time. This gives rise to sophisticated power management algorithms, which need the underlying system to be both highly observable (to be able to sense changes in instantaneous power demand timely) and controllable (to be able to react to changes in instantaneous power demand timely). The end goal is allocating the power budget, which itself represents a very critical shared resource, in a fair way among active tasks of execution. Fundamentally, if not carefully managed, any system-wide shared resource can give rise to covert communication. Power budget does not represent an exception, particularly as systems are becoming more and more observable and controllable. In this paper, we demonstrate how power management vulnerabilities can enable covert communication over a previously unexplored, novel class of covert channels which we will refer to as POWERT channels. We also provide a comprehensive characterization of the POWERT channel capacity under various sharing and activity scenarios. Our analysis based on experiments on representative commercial systems reveal a peak channel capacity of 121.6 bits per second (bps).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 25th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2019
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Pages291-303
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781728114446
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 26 2019
Event25th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2019 - Washington, United States
Duration: Feb 16 2019Feb 20 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings - 25th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2019

Conference

Conference25th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2019
CountryUnited States
CityWashington
Period2/16/192/20/19

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation CAREER Award under Grant CCF-1350451, in part by the National Science Foundation/Semiconductor Research Corporation SaTC:STARSS Award under Grant CNS-1715286, and in part by a Cisco Research Award. The authors would like to thank numerous anonymous reviewers, and particularly Meisam Razaviyayn for constructive feedback.

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENT This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation CAREER Award under Grant CCF-1350451, in part by the National Science Foundation/Semiconductor Research Corporation SaTC:STARSS Award under Grant CNS-1715286, and in part by a Cisco Research Award. The authors would like to thank numerous anonymous reviewers, and particularly Meisam Razaviyayn for constructive feedback.

Keywords

  • Covert channels
  • Power headroom modulation
  • Power management

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