Private environments for programs

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2014-08

Authors

Dunn, Alan Mark

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Abstract

Commodity computer systems today do not provide system support for privacy. As a result, given the creation of new leak opportunities by ever-increasing software complexity, leaks of private data are inevitable. This thesis presents Suliban and Lacuna, two systems that allow programs to execute privately on commodity hardware. These systems demonstrate different points in a design space wherein stronger privacy guarantees can be traded for greater system usability. Suliban uses trusted computing technology to run computation-only code privately; we refer to this protection as "cloaking". In particular, Suliban can run malicious computations in a way that is resistant to analysis. Suliban uses the Trusted Platform Module and processor late launch to create an execution environment entirely disjoint from normal system software. Suliban uses a remote attestation protocol to demonstrate to a malware distribution platform that the environment has been correctly created before the environment is allowed to receive a malicious payload. Suliban's execution outside of standard system software allows it to resist attackers with privileged operating system access and those that can perform some forms of physical attack. However, Suliban cannot access system services, and requires extra case-by-case measures to get outside information like the date or host file contents. Nonetheless, we demonstrate that Suliban can run computations that would be useful in real malware. In building Suliban, we uncover which defenses are most effective against it and highlight current problems with the use of the Trusted Platform Module. Lacuna instead aims at achieving forensic deniability, which guarantees that an attacker that gains full control of a system after a computation has finished cannot learn answers to even binary questions (with a few exceptions) about the computation. This relaxation of Suliban's guarantees allows Lacuna to run full-featured programs concurrently with non-private programs on a system. Lacuna's key primitive is the ephemeral channel, which allows programs to use peripherals while maintaining forensic deniability. This thesis extends the original Lacuna work by investigating how Linux kernel statistics leak private session information and how to mitigate these leaks.

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