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Security Through Amnesia: A Software-Based Solution to the Cold Boot Attack on Disk Encryption

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Bookmark or cite this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/18862

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Title: Security Through Amnesia: A Software-Based Solution to the Cold Boot Attack on Disk Encryption
Author(s): Simmons, Patrick
Subject(s): disk encryption cold boot security Applications of cryptographic techniques Attacks against networks and machines Cryptographic implementation analysis and construction File and filesystem security Forensics and diagnostics for security Hardware security Operating system security Security architectures Techniques for developing secure systems
Abstract: Disk encryption has become an important security measure for a multitude of clients, including governments, corporations, activists, security-conscious professionals, and privacy-conscious individuals. Unfortunately, recent research has discovered an effective side channel attack against any disk mounted by a running machine [23]. This attack, known as the cold boot attack, is effective against any mounted volume using state-of-the-art disk encryption, is relatively simple to perform for an attacker with even rudimentary technical knowledge and training, and is applicable to exactly the scenario against which disk encryption is primarily supposed to defend: an adversary with physical access. To our knowledge, no effective software-based countermeasure to this attack supporting multiple encryption keys has yet been articulated in the literature. Moreover, since no proposed solution has been implemented in publicly available software, all general-purpose machines using disk encryption remain vulnerable. We present Loop-Amnesia, a kernel-based disk encryption mechanism implementing a novel technique to eliminate vulnerability to the cold boot attack. We offer theoretical justification of Loop-Amnesia's invulnerability to the attack, verify that our implementation is not vulnerable in practice, and present measurements showing our impact on I/O accesses to the encrypted disk is limited to a slowdown of approximately 2x. Loop-Amnesia is written for x86-64, but our technique is applicable to other register-based architectures. We base our work on loop-AES, a state-of-the-art open source disk encryption package for Linux.
Issue Date: 2011-04-23
Genre: Technical Report
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/18862
Publication Status: unpublished
Peer Reviewed: not peer reviewed
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-04-24
 

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