Author(s): Ming-Wei Shih, Sangho Lee, Taesoo Kim, Marcus Peinado

Download: Paper (PDF)

Date: 27 Feb 2017

Document Type: Reports

Additional Documents: Slides Video

Associated Event: NDSS Symposium 2017


Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) is a hardware-based Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) that enables secure execution of a program in an isolated environment, called an enclave. SGX hardware protects the running enclave against malicious software, including the operating system, hypervisor, and even low-level firmware. This strong security property allows trustworthy execution of programs in hostile environments, such as a public cloud, without trusting anyone (e.g., a cloud provider) between the enclave and the SGX hardware. However, recent studies have demonstrated that enclave programs are vulnerable to accurate controlled-channel attacks conducted by a malicious OS. Since enclaves rely on the underlying OS, curious and potentially malicious OSs can observe a sequence of accessed addresses by intentionally triggering page faults.

In this paper, we propose T-SGX, a complete mitigation solution to the controlled-channel attack in terms of compatibility, performance, and ease of use. T-SGX relies on a commodity component of the Intel processor (since Haswell), called Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX), which implements a restricted form of hardware transactional memory. As TSX is implemented as an extension (i.e., snooping the cache protocol), any unusual event, such as an exception or interrupt, that should be handled in its core component, results in an abort of the ongoing transaction. One interesting property is that the TSX abort suppresses the notification of errors to the underlying OS. This means that the OS cannot know whether a page fault has occurred during the transaction. T-SGX, by utilizing this property of TSX, can carefully isolate the effect of attempts to tap running enclaves, thereby completely eradicating the known controlledchannel attack.

We have implemented T-SGX as a compiler-level scheme to automatically transform a normal enclave program into a secured enclave program without requiring manual source code modification or annotation. We not only evaluate the security properties of T-SGX, but also demonstrate that it could be applied to all the previously demonstrated attack targets, such as libjpeg, Hunspell, and FreeType. To evaluate the performance of T-SGX, we ported 10 benchmark programs of nbench to the SGX environment. Our evaluation results look promising. T-SGX is an order of magnitude faster than the state-of-the-art mitigation schemes. On our benchmarks, T-SGX incurs on average 50% performance overhead and less than 30% storage overhead.