Copker: Computing with Private Keys without RAM


Cryptographic systems are essential for computer and communication security, for instance, RSA is used in PGP Email clients and AES is employed in full disk encryption. In practice, the cryptographic keys are loaded and stored in RAM as plain-text, and therefore vulnerable to physical memory attacks (e.g., cold-boot attacks). To tackle this problem, we propose Copker, which implements asymmetric cryptosystems entirely within the CPU, without storing plain-text private keys in the RAM. In its active mode, Copker stores kilobytes of sensitive data, including the private key and the intermediate states, only in on-chip CPU caches (and registers). Decryption/signing operations are performed without storing sensitive information in system memory. In the suspend mode, Copker stores symmetrically encrypted private keys in memory, while employs existing solutions to keep the key-encryption key securely in CPU registers. Hence, Copker releases the system resources in the suspend mode. In this paper, we implement Copker with the most common asymmetric cryptosystem, RSA, with the support of multiple private keys. We show that Copker provides decryption signing services that are secure against physical memory attacks. Meanwhile, with intensive experiments, we demonstrate that our implementation of Copker is secure and requires reasonable overhead.

21st Annual Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (Acceptance rate: 55295=18.6%)