HEF: A Hardware-Assisted Security Evaluation Framework

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Description

Hardware-Assisted Security (HAS) is an emerging technology that addresses the shortcomings of software-based virtualized environment. There are two major weaknesses of software-based virtualization that HAS attempts to address - performance

Hardware-Assisted Security (HAS) is an emerging technology that addresses the shortcomings of software-based virtualized environment. There are two major weaknesses of software-based virtualization that HAS attempts to address - performance overhead and security issues. Performance overhead caused by software-based virtualization is due to the use of additional software layer (i.e., hypervisor). Since the performance is highly related to efficiency of processing data and providing services, reducing performance overhead is one of the major concerns in data centers and enterprise networks. Software-based virtualization also imposes additional security issues in the virtualized environments. To resolve those issues, HAS is developed to offload security functions from application layer to a dedicated hardware, thereby achieving almost bare-metal performance and enhanced security. As a result, HAS gained

more popularity and the number of studies regarding efficiency of the technology is increasing.

However, there exists no attempt to our knowledge that provides a generic test mechanism that is universally applicable to all HAS devices. Preparing such a testbed for each specific HAS device is a time-consuming and costly task for hardware manufacturers and network administrators. Therefore, we try to address the demands of hardware vendors and researchers for a generic testbed that can evaluate both performance and security functions of the HAS-enabled systems.

In this thesis, the HAS device evaluation framework (HEF) is defined for hardware vendors, network administrators, and researchers to measure performance of the system with HAS devices. HEF provides a generic test environments for a given HAS device by providing generic test metrics and evaluation mechanisms. HEF is also designed to take user-defined test metrics and test cases to support various hardware. The framework performs the entire process in an automated fashion, and thus it requires no user intervention. Finally, the efficacy of HEF is demonstrated by performing a case study using Intel QuickAssist Technology (QAT) adapter, which is a dedicated PCI express device for cryptographic tasks.