Controlling Timing Channels in Multithreaded Programs
Licentiatavhandling, 2007

The problem of controlling information flow in multithreaded programs remains an important open challenge. A major difficulty for tracking information flow in concurrent programs is due to the internal timing covert channel. Information is leaked via this channel when secrets affect the timing behavior of a thread, which, via the scheduler, affects the interleaving of public events. Volpano and Smith propose a special primitive called protect. By definition, protect(c) takes one atomic step in the semantics with the effect of executing c to the end. Internal timing leaks are removed if every computation that branches on secrets is wrapped by protect() commands. However, implementing protect imposes a major challenge. This thesis introduces a novel treatment of the interaction between threads and the scheduler. As a result, a permissive security specification and a compositional security type system are obtained. The type system guarantees security for a wide class of schedulers and provides a flexible treatment of dynamic thread creation. While this approach allows the implementation of a generalized version of protect, it relies on the modification of the scheduler in the run-time environment. In some scenarios, the modification of the run-time environment might not be an acceptable requirement. For such scenarios, the thesis presents two transformations that eliminate the need for protect or interactions with the scheduler while avoiding internal timing leaks. The first transformation is given for programs running under cooperative schedulers. It states that threads must not yield control inside of computations that branch on secrets. The second transformation closes internal timing channel when the scheduler is preemptive and behaves as round-robin. It spawns dedicated threads, whenever computation may affect secrets, and carefully synchronizes them. To evaluate some of the ideas described above, the thesis presents an implementation in Haskell of a library that provides information-flow security for multithreaded code. The implementation includes an online-shopping case study. The case study reveals that exploiting concurrency to leak secrets is feasible and dangerous in practice and shows how the library can help avoiding internal timing leaks. Up to the publication date, this is the first tool that guarantees information-flow security in multithreaded programs and the first implementation of a case study that involves concurrency and information-flow policies.

ED Room, EDIT Building, Rännvägen 6, Chalmers University of Technology
Opponent: Cédric Fournet


Alejandro Russo

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Datavetenskap


Annan matematik

Datavetenskap (datalogi)

Technical report L - Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University: 38L

ED Room, EDIT Building, Rännvägen 6, Chalmers University of Technology

Opponent: Cédric Fournet

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