ZebRAM: Comprehensive And Compatible Software Protection Against Rowhammer Attacks

Authors:
Radhesh Krishnan Konoth Vrije Universiteit Amsterda
Marco Oliverio University of Calabria and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Andrei Tatar Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Dennis Andriesse Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Herbert Bos Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Cristiano Giuffrida Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Kaveh Razavi Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Introduction:

The Rowhammer vulnerability common to many modern DRAM chips allows attackers to trigger bit flips in a row of memory cells by accessing the adjacent rows at high frequencies.This paper introduces ZebRAM, a novel and comprehensive software-level protection against Rowhammer. ZebRAM isolates every DRAM row that contains data with guard rows that absorb any Rowhammer-induced bit flips; the only known method to protect against all forms of Rowhammer.

Abstract:

The Rowhammer vulnerability common to many modern DRAM chips allows attackers to trigger bit flips in a row of memory cells by accessing the adjacent rows at high frequencies. As a result, they are able to corrupt sensitive data structures (such as page tables, cryptographic keys, object pointers, or even instructions in a program), and circumvent all existing defenses. This paper introduces ZebRAM, a novel and comprehensive software-level protection against Rowhammer. ZebRAM isolates every DRAM row that contains data with guard rows that absorb any Rowhammer-induced bit flips; the only known method to protect against all forms of Rowhammer. Rather than leaving guard rows unused, ZebRAM improves performance by using the guard rows as efficient, integrity-checked and optionally compressed swap space. ZebRAM requires no hardware modifications and builds on virtualization extensions in commodity processors to transparently control data placement in DRAM. Our evaluation shows that ZebRAM provides strong security guarantees while utilizing all available memory.

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