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Trace Oblivious Program Execution

The big data era has dramatically transformed our lives; however, security incidents such as data breaches can put sensitive data (e.g. photos, identities, genomes) at risk. To protect users’ data privacy, there is a growing interest in building secure cloud computing systems, which keep sensitive data inputs hidden, even from computation providers.

Conceptually, secure cloud computing systems leverage cryptographic techniques (e.g., secure multiparty computation) and trusted hardware (e.g. secure processors) to instantiate a “secure” abstract machine consisting of a CPU and encrypted memory, so that an adversary cannot learn information through either the computation within the CPU or the data in the memory. Unfortunately, evidence has shown that side channels (e.g. memory accesses, timing, and termination) in such a “secure” abstract machine may potentially leak highly sensitive information, including cryptographic keys that form the root of trust for the secure systems.

This thesis broadly expands the investigation of a research direction called trace oblivious computation, where programming language techniques are employed to prevent side channel information leakage. We demonstrate the feasibility of trace oblivious computation, by formalizing and building several systems, including GhostRider, which is a hardware-software co-design to provide a hardware-based trace oblivious computing solution, SCVM, which is an automatic RAM-model secure computation system, and ObliVM, which is a programming framework to facilitate programmers to develop applications. All of these systems enjoy formal security guarantees while demonstrating a better performance than prior systems, by one to several orders of magnitude.
Source: University of Maryland
Author: Liu, Chang

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