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July 2, 2020

Learning secrets and models from execution time

Research Results

The researcher of the IMDEA Software Institute, Pepe Vila, has sucessfully defended his PhD thesis titled: “Learning secrets and models from execution time”. Professor Boris Köpf (on leave researcher of the Institute and researcher of Microsoft Research Lab at Cambridge) was his advisor.

In his work he studies some of the problems arising on computer systems that leak information through execution time. They study several instances of how these leaks can be used to both learn secrets—of a confidential computation—and models—of an underlying component—, providing examples that violate previous assumptions about systems’ security or about the attackers’ capabilities.

He studies in particular, time leakage under three different scenarios, providing multiple independent contributions in each of them:

In conclusion, the results of Pepe Vila’s thesis constitute an evidence that better models and quantification methods -for both software and hardware systems-, are required in order to reason about the soundness and trade-offs of security countermeasures; and provide a basis for principled countermeasures against, or paths for further improving the efficiency of, several side channel attacks.