SpecVerilog: Adapting Information Flow Control for Secure Speculation
Drew Zagieboylo, Charles Sherk, Andrew C. Myers, and G. Edward Suh

2023 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS)


To address transient execution vulnerabilities, processor architects have proposed both defensive designs and formal descriptions of the security they provide. However, these designs are not typically formally proven to enforce the claimed guarantees; more importantly, there are few tools to automatically ensure that Register Transfer Level (RTL) descriptions are faithful to high-level designs. In this paper, we demonstrate how to extend an existing security-typed hardware description language to express speculative security conditions and to verify the security of synthesizable implementations. Our tool can statically verify that an RTL hardware design is free of transient execution vulnerabilities without manual proof effort. Our key insight is that erasure labels can be adapted both to be statically checkable and to represent transiently accessed or modified data and its mandatory erasure under misspeculation. Further, we show how to use erasure labels to defend a strong formal definition of speculative security. To validate our approach, we implement several components that are critical to speculative, out-of-order processors and are also common vectors for transient execution vulnerabilities. We show that the security of existing defenses can be correctly validated and that the absence of necessary defenses is detected as a potential vulnerability.

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