Vol. 7 No. 1 (2021): Special Issue on Embedded System Security
Special Issue on Embedded System Security

Randomization as Mitigation of Directed Timing Inference Based Attacks on Time-Triggered Real-Time Systems with Task Replication

Kristin Krüger
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Nils Vreman
Department of Automatic Control, Lund University
Richard Pates
Department of Automatic Control, Lund University
Martina Maggio
Department of Automatic Control, Lund University Department of Computer Science, Saarland University
Marcus Völp
SnT - Université du Luxembourg
Gerhard Fohler
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

Published 2021-08-12


  • real-time systems,
  • time-triggered systems,
  • security

How to Cite

Krüger, K., Vreman, N., Pates, R., Maggio, M., Völp, M. and Fohler, G. 2021. Randomization as Mitigation of Directed Timing Inference Based Attacks on Time-Triggered Real-Time Systems with Task Replication. Leibniz Transactions on Embedded Systems. 7, 1 (Aug. 2021), 01:1–01:29. DOI:https://doi.org/10.4230/LITES.7.1.1.


Time-triggered real-time systems achieve deterministic behavior using schedules that are constructed offline, based on scheduling constraints. Their deterministic behavior makes time-triggered systems suitable for usage in safety-critical environments, like avionics. However, this determinism also allows attackers to fine-tune attacks that can be carried out after studying the behavior of the system through side channels, targeting safety-critical victim tasks. Replication -- i.e., the execution of task variants across different cores -- is inherently able to tolerate both accidental and malicious faults (i.e. attacks) as long as these faults are independent of one another. Yet, targeted attacks on the timing behavior of tasks which utilize information gained about the system behavior violate the fault independence assumption fault tolerance is based on. This violation may give attackers the opportunity to compromise all replicas simultaneously, in particular if they can mount the attack from already compromised components. In this paper, we analyze vulnerabilities of time-triggered systems, focusing on safety-certified multicore real-time systems. We introduce two runtime mitigation strategies to withstand directed timing inference based attacks: (i) schedule randomization at slot level, and (ii) randomization within a set of offline constructed schedules. We evaluate these mitigation strategies with synthetic experiments and a real case study to show their effectiveness and practicality.


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