Detecting Covert Timing Channels with Time-Deterministic Replay
This paper presents a mechanism called timedeterministic replay (TDR) that can reproduce the execution of a program, including its precise timing. Without TDR, reproducing the timing of an execution is difficult because there are many sources of timing variability – such as preemptions, hardware interrupts, cache effects, scheduling decisions, etc. TDR uses a combination of techniques to either mitigate or eliminate most of these sources of variability. Using a prototype implementation of TDR in a Java Virtual Machine, we show that it is possible to reproduce the timing to within 1.85% of the original execution, even on commodity hardware. The paper discusses several potential applications of TDR, and studies one of them in detail: the detection of a covert timing channel. Timing channels can be used to exfiltrate information from a compromised machine; they work by subtly varying the timing of the machine’s outputs, and it is this variation that can be detected with TDR. Unlike prior solutions, which generally look for a specific type of timing channel, our approach can detect a wide variety of channels with high accuracy.