Virtualization Technology: Cross-VM Cache Side Channel Attacks make it Vulnerable

Abid Shahzad, School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
Alan Litchfield, Service and Cloud Computing Research Lab, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand


Cloud computing provides an effective business model for the deployment of IT infrastructure, platform, and software services. Often, facilities are outsourced to cloud providers and this offers the service consumer virtualization technologies without the added cost burden of development. However, virtualization introduces serious threats to service delivery such as Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, Cross-VM Cache Side Channel attacks, Hypervisor Escape and Hyper-jacking. One of the most sophisticated forms of attack is the cross-VM cache side channel attack that exploits shared cache memory between VMs. A cache side channel attack results in side channel data leakage, such as cryptographic keys. Various techniques used by the attackers to launch cache side channel attack are presented, as is a critical analysis of countermeasures against cache side channel attacks.