Mill Computing, Inc. Forums The Mill Architecture Meltdown and Spectre Reply To: Meltdown and Spectre

Findecanor
Participant
Post count: 19

Memory timing is used by the Meltdown and Spectre attacks only as a side-channel to leak the loaded values but there are other types of attacks that use cache timing (or even DRAM timing!) for side-channels or for snooping on other processes.

The x86 is especially susceptible to cache timing-based attacks because instructions for flushing the cache and fine-grained timing (Flush+Reload) are available for programs in user-mode. On ARM for instance, the similar instructions are privileged thus making it not impossible but at least harder for an attacker to perform timing-based attacks with high accuracy.
Therefore, that the Mill architecture does not have any privileged mode does worry me a bit.

One way to make instructions privileged in an operating system (on both the Mill and x86) could be to enclose a manifest in the executable in which the compiler has described which (groups of) instructions that the executable is using. Then permit a program to run only those instructions that the parent process/runtime has explicitly granted it.
That would require protection of the binary, however: either through strong guarantees in the OS or through a cryptographic signature.
I have been trying to find prior similar work but not found anything – where binaries have been signed by a toolchain instead of just the person/organisation that published it. If that reminds you of something, please let me know because I would like to code something up. (and not just for binaries for The Mill, but a generic framework)