NSF Workshop Report on Side and Covert Channels in Computing Systems

The leakage of sensitive information is a fast-growing concern among computer users. Side- and covert channels have particularly gained attention recently due to their potential to reveal sensitive data to untrusted parties. Side channels are information leakage channels where an adversary can decipher victim’s data through silently monitoring the computing activity via physical effects such as timing, power or electromagnetic analysis. Covert channels, in contrast, work by having a malicious insider, or trojan, who intentionally colludes with the adversary to exfiltrate secrets. Side and covert channels have become major concerns for the computer industry. In early 2018, the Meltdown and Spectre attacks demonstrated that hardware implementation effects in commercial processor hardware enabled new, previously undiscovered side-channel and covert-channel leakage. These attacks highlight the notoriety of information leakage channels, and they stress the immediate need to address the security risks resulting from them.[…]


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