SpecSafe: Detecting Cache Side Channels in a Speculative World
The high-profile Spectre attack and its variants have revealed that speculative execution may
leave secret-dependent footprints in the cache, allowing an attacker to learn confidential data.
However, existing static side-channel detectors either ignore speculative execution, leading to false negatives, or lack a precise cache model, leading to false positives. In this paper, somewhat surprisingly, we show that it is challenging to develop a speculation-aware static analysis with precise cache models: a combination of existing works does not necessarily catch all cache side channels.
Motivated by this observation, we present a new semantic definition of security against cache-based side-channel attacks, called Speculative-Aware noninterference (SANI), which is applicable to a variety of attacks and cache models. We also develop SpecSafe to detect the violations of SANI. Unlike other speculation-aware symbolic executors, SpecSafe employs a novel program transformation so that SANI can be soundly checked by speculation-unaware side-channel detectors.
SpecSafe is shown to be both scalable and accurate on
a set of moderately sized benchmarks, including commonly used cryptography libraries.