Defensive Design of Saturating Counters Based on Differential Privacy

by   Depeng Liu, et al.

The saturating counter is the basic module of the dynamic branch predictor, which involves the core technique to improve instruction level parallelism performance in modern processors. However, most studies focus on the performance improvement and hardware consumption of saturating counters, while ignoring the security problems they may cause. In this paper, we creatively propose to study and design saturating counters from the defense perspective of differential privacy, so that attackers cannot distinguish the states that saturating counters are in and further infer sensitive information. To obtain theoretical guarantees, we use Markov chain to formalize the attack algorithm applied to the saturating counter, investigate into the optimal attack strategy and calculate the probability of successful attack. Furthermore, we find that the attacker is able to accurately guess the branch execution of the victim's process in the existing saturating counters. To avoid this, we design a new probabilistic saturating counter, which generalizes the existing conventional and probabilistic saturating counters. The guarantee of differential privacy is applied to deduce parameters of the new saturating counters so that the security requirement can be satisfied. We also theoretically calculate the misprediction rate when the saturating counter reaches the steady state. The experimental results on testing programs show that the calculated theoretical results agree with the experimental performances. Compared with the existing conventional and probabilistic saturating counters, when the parameters of our designed models are selected appropriately, the new saturating counters can not only ensure similar operational performance, but also establish strict security guarantee.


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