International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Sarani Bhattacharya


“Whispering MLaaS”: Exploiting Timing Channels to Compromise User Privacy in Deep Neural Networks
While recent advancements of Deep Learning (DL) in solving complex real-world tasks have spurred their popularity, the usage of privacy-rich data for their training in varied applications has made them an overly-exposed threat surface for privacy violations. Moreover, the rapid adoption of cloud-based Machine-Learning-asa-Service (MLaaS) has broadened the threat surface to various remote side-channel attacks. In this paper, for the first time, we show one such privacy violation by observing a data-dependent timing side-channel (naming this to be Class-Leakage) originating from non-constant time branching operation in a widely popular DL framework, namely PyTorch. We further escalate this timing variability to a practical inference-time attack where an adversary with user level privileges and having hard-label black-box access to an MLaaS can exploit Class-Leakage to compromise the privacy of MLaaS users. DL models have also been shown to be vulnerable to Membership Inference Attack (MIA), where the primary objective of an adversary is to deduce whether any particular data has been used while training the model. Differential Privacy (DP) has been proposed in recent literature as a popular countermeasure against MIA, where inclusivity and exclusivity of a data-point in a dataset cannot be ascertained by definition. In this paper, we also demonstrate that the existence of a data-point within the training dataset of a DL model secured with DP can still be distinguished using the identified timing side-channel. In addition, we propose an efficient countermeasure to the problem by introducing constant-time branching operation that alleviates the Class-Leakage. We validate the approach using five pre-trained DL models trained on two standard benchmarking image classification datasets, CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100, over two different computing environments having Intel Xeon and Intel i7 processors.
RASSLE: Return Address Stack based Side-channel LEakage 📺
Microarchitectural attacks on computing systems often stem from simple artefacts in the underlying architecture. In this paper, we focus on the Return Address Stack (RAS), a small hardware stack present in modern processors to reduce the branch miss penalty by storing the return addresses of each function call. The RAS is useful to handle specifically the branch predictions for the RET instructions which are not accurately predicted by the typical branch prediction units. In particular, we envisage a spy process who crafts an overflow condition in the RAS by filling it with arbitrary return addresses, and wrestles with a concurrent process to establish a timing side channel between them. We call this attack principle, RASSLE 1 (Return Address Stack based Side-channel Leakage), which an adversary can launch on modern processors by first reverse engineering the RAS using a generic methodology exploiting the established timing channel. Subsequently, we show three concrete attack scenarios: i) How a spy can establish a covert channel with another co-residing process? ii) How RASSLE can be utilized to determine the secret key of the P-384 curves in OpenSSL (v1.1.1 library)? iii) How an Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) secret key on P-256 curve of OpenSSL can be revealed using Lattice Attack on partially leaked nonces with the aid of RASSLE? In this attack, we show that the OpenSSL implementation of scalar multiplication on this curve has varying number of add-and-sub function calls, which depends on the secret scalar bits. We demonstrate through several experiments that the number of add-and-sub function calls can be used to template the secret bit, which can be picked up by the spy using the principles of RASSLE. Finally, we demonstrate a full end-to-end attack on OpenSSL ECDSA using curve parameters of curve P-256. In this part of our experiments with RASSLE, we abuse the deadline scheduler policy to attain perfect synchronization between the spy and victim, without any aid of induced synchronization from the victim code. This synchronization and timing leakage through RASSLE is sufficient to retrieve the Most Significant Bits (MSB) of the ephemeral nonces used while signature generation, from which we subsequently retrieve the secret signing key of the sender applying the Hidden Number Problem. 1RASSLE is a non-standard spelling for wrestle.