SAFARI Live Seminar: Jawad Haj-Yahya 4 October 2021

Monday, October 4 at 5:30 pm Zurich time (CEST)

Security Implications of Power Management Mechanisms In Modern Processors, Current Studies and Future Trends
Jawad Haj-Yahya, Huawei Research Center Zurich

Livestream at 5:30 pm Zurich time (CEST) on YouTube link

Despite the failure of Dennard scaling, the slow-down in Moore’s Law, and the high power density of modern processors, power management mechanisms have enabled significant advances in modern microprocessor performance and energy efficiency. Yet, current power management architectures also pose serious security implications. This is mainly because functionality rather than security has been the main consideration in the design of power management mechanisms in commodity microprocessors.

In this seminar, we provide a detailed overview of state-of-the-art power management mechanisms used in modern microprocessors. Based on this background, we present our recently-revealed set of new vulnerabilities, called IChannels. IChannels is a set of covert channels that exploits multi-level throttling mechanisms used by the current management mechanisms in modern processors. These covert channels can be established between two execution contexts 1) on the same hardware thread, 2) across simultaneous multithreading (SMT) threads, and 3) across different physical cores.  Finally, we discuss a set of practical mitigation mechanisms to protect a system against known covert channels resulting from current management mechanisms.

We conclude by discussing future follow-up works on vulnerabilities due to power management mechanisms and possible mitigations to explore in these critical and exciting areas.

This talk is based on the following paper: 

Jawad Haj-Yahya, Jeremie S. Kim, A. Giray Yaglikci, Ivan Puddu, Lois Orosa, Juan Gomez Luna, Mohammed Alser, and Onur Mutlu, IChannels: Exploiting Current Management Mechanisms to Create Covert Channels in Modern Processors, Proceedings of the 48th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA), Virtual, June 2021.
[Slides (pptx) (pdf)]
[Short Talk Slides (pptx) (pdf)]
[Talk Video (21 minutes)]

Speaker Bio:
Jawad Haj-Yahya received his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Haifa University, Israel.  Jawad was a processor architect for many years at Intel. His awards and honors include the Intel Achievement Award (the highest award at Intel), for his significant contribution to Intel processors. 
Jawad worked at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore as a cybersecurity Research Scientist where he led the architecture and design of a secure-processor project based on RISC-V architecture.  He then moved to the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) at A*STAR Singapore where he was a Scientist III and worked on hardware security and an AI accelerator. Jawad next worked as a Senior Researcher in the SAFARI Research Group at ETH Zurich, where he led multiple projects on Energy-Efficient Computing and Hardware Security, before moving to his current position as a principal researcher at Huawei Research Center in Zurich. 

Posted in Lectures, Papers, Seminar, Talks, Video.