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Software Exploitation: Hardware is the New Black

Cristiano Giuffrida
Data dell'evento: 
Martedì, 3 March, 2020 - 11:30
Aula Magna, DIAG, Via Ariosto 25
Leonardo Querzoni

What would the world be like if software had no bugs? Software systems would be impenetrable and our data shielded from prying eyes? Not quite. In this talk, I will present evidence that reliable attacks targeting even "perfect" software are a realistic threat. Such attacks exploit properties of modern hardware such as glitches (e.g., Rowhammer) and side channels (e.g., deduplication) to completely subvert a system, even in absence of software or configuration bugs. To substantiate this claim, I will illustrate practical attacks in real-world systems settings, such as browsers, clouds, and mobile.

The implications of these attacks are worrisome. Even bug-free (say formally verified) software can be successfully targeted by a relatively low-effort attacker. Moreover, state-of-the-art security defenses, which have proven useful to raise the bar against traditional software exploitation techniques, are completely ineffective against such attacks. It is time to revisit our assumptions on realistic adversarial models and investigate defenses that consider threats in the entire hardware/software stack. Pandora's box has been opened.

BIO: Cristiano Giuffrida is a Tenured Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His research interests span across several aspects of computer systems, with a strong focus on systems security. He received a Ph.D. cum laude from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2014. He was awarded the Roger Needham Award at EuroSys and the Dennis M. Ritchie Award at SOSP for the best PhD dissertation in Computer Systems in 2015 (Europe and worldwide). He was awarded a VENI grant (the Dutch Equivalent of a NSF CAREER Award, PhD+3) in 2017. He has served on the program committee of a number of top systems and security venues, such as SOSP, OSDI, EuroSys, S&P, CCS, NDSS, and USENIX Security.

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