Keystone Project: Trusted Environment for Running Applications Based on RISC-V

    A team of researchers from MIT and the University of California at Berkeley, with the support of Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other IT giants, presented the Keystone project . This is an open source component that allows you to create a trusted environment for running programs (trusted execution environment, TEE ) based on the RISC-V architecture.

    Further - about why the decision was needed and how it works.

    / photo Wikimedia CC

    Why do you need Keystone

    Trusted execution environment is an isolated area (enclave) of the main processor with a set of security mechanisms. It is believed that the code and data loaded into this area are reliably protected from changes and interference from outside.

    The idea is that in these enclaves it is possible to carry out operations on personal and confidential data without fear of compromising them, since neither the operating system nor other applications have access to these areas of the processor.

    There are systems and solutions on the market that protect data at the hardware level. However, all of them are proprietary, as they are implemented by the manufacturers of computer chips themselves. And there is an opinion that these technologies are not well protected (since they are not available for assessment by independent security experts).

    For example, Intel is offering an extension of the Software Guard Extensions (SGX) architecture that protects data from unauthorized access and alteration. This technology also involves enclaves in which the code of the user application is executed. However, recently it became known that this system is vulnerable to Foreshadow attack ( CVE-2018-3615 ). Attackers can gain access to data in the SGX enclave using features of speculative command execution .

    In addition to Intel, AMD offers its solutions - their names are Secure Processor and SEV, as well as ARM - they have a TrustZone. However, their security experts also have questions .

    According to researchers from MIT and the University of California, the open source system, although it will not make the enclaves invulnerable, will still improve their security through the expertise of many community experts.

    / photo Brad Holt CC

    Thus, the Keystone system is an open source project based on the RISC-V architecture for building TEE. The researchers chose RISC-V because it is less vulnerable to attacks through third-party channels aimed at practical implementation of cryptosystems. In particular, this type of architecture is not subject to vulnerabilities like Meltdown and Specter.

    Keystone developers set the following goals :

    • Build a chain of trust to test each component of hardware and software (this includes Secure boot systems and remote hardware verification of hardware);
    • Isolate memory from outside interference;
    • Implement methods to protect against attacks through third-party channels;
    • Implement memory and address bus encryption methods.

    Solution Components

    Keystone The concept is based on the technologies SGX and enclave-platform Sanctum Processor , developed by the MIT in .

    The latter is built using the so-called trusted abstraction layer , or the trusted abstract platform (TAP). The platform (TAP) consists of a processor with a command counter , general-purpose registers , a system for translating virtual addresses and a set of primitives for executing code in a protected enclave.

    From the SGX Keystone system, he “picked up” the Memory Encryption Engine (MEE) engine. The solution core is organized using a parameterized RISC-V BOOM processor(Berkeley Out-of-Order Machine) on SoC- generator Rocket .

    In general, the scheme of implementing a system with an enclave on RISC-V is as follows:

    Researchers have already conducted several tests of their solution and found that it reliably isolates the code execution environment and protects it from outside interference (at least from known attacks).

    When release

    The first version - Keystone v0.1 - will appear this fall and will be executed on the FPGA. The researchers come to life that in the future it will be able to replace SGX in the implementation of blockchain platforms.

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