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Published November 2017 | metadata_only
Book Section - Chapter

Exploiting a Thermal Side Channel for Power Attacks in Multi-Tenant Data Centers


The power capacity of multi-tenant data centers is typically oversubscribed in order to increase the utilization of expensive power infrastructure. This practice can create dangerous situations and compromise data center availability if the designed power capacity is exceeded. This paper demonstrates that current safeguards are vulnerable to well-timed power attacks launched by malicious tenants (i.e., attackers). Further, we demonstrate that there is a physical side channel --- a thermal side channel due to hot air recirculation --- that contains information about the benign tenants' runtime power usage and can enable a malicious tenant to time power attacks effectively. In particular, we design a state-augmented Kalman filter to extract this information from the side channel and guide an attacker to use its maximum power at moments that coincide with the benign tenants' high power demand, thus overloading the shared power capacity. Our experimental results show that an attacker can capture 54% of all attack opportunities, significantly compromising the data center availability. Finally, we discuss a set of possible defense strategies to safeguard the data center infrastructure against power attacks.

Additional Information

© 2017 ACM. This work was supported in part by the U.S. NSF under grants CNS-1551661, CNS-1565474, ECCS-1610471, AitF-1637598, CNS-1518941, and CNS-1319820.

Additional details

August 21, 2023
August 21, 2023