Towards Phase Change Memory as a Secure Main Memory

André Seznec 1
1 ALF - Amdahl's Law is Forever
Inria Rennes – Bretagne Atlantique , IRISA-D3 - ARCHITECTURE
Abstract : Phase change memory (PCM) technology appears as more scalable than DRAM technology. As PCM exhibits access time slightly longer but in the same range as DRAMs, sev- eral recent studies have proposed to use PCMs for designing main memory systems. Unfortunately PCM technology suf- fers from a limited write endurance; typically each memory cell can be only be written a large but still limited number of times (107 to 109 writes are reported for current tech- nology). Till now, research proposals have essentially fo- cused their attention on designing memory systems that will survive to the average behavior of conventional applications. However PCM memory systems should be designed to sur- vive worst-case applications, i.e., malicious attacks targeting the physical destruction of the memory through overwriting a limited number of memory cells. In this paper, we propose the design of a secure PCM- based main memory that would by construction survive to overwrite attacks. In order to prevent a malicious user to overwrite some memory cells, the physical memory address (PA) manipulated by the computer system is not the same as the PCM memory address (PCMA). PCMA is made invis- ible from the rest of the computer system. The PCM mem- ory controller is in charge of the PA-to-PCMA translation . Hiding PCMA alone does not prevent a malicious user to overwrite a PCM memory word. Therefore in the se- cure PCM-based main memory, PA-to-PCMA translation is continuously modied through a random process, such pre- venting a malicious user to overwrite some PCM memory words. PCM address invisibility and continuous random PA- to-PCMA translation ensures security against an overwrit- ing attack as well it ensures a practical write endurance close to the theoretical maximum. The hardware overhead needed to ensure this security in the PCM controller includes a ran- dom number generator and a medium large address transla- tion table.
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André Seznec. Towards Phase Change Memory as a Secure Main Memory. Workshop on the Use of Emerging Storage and Memory Technologies (WEST 2010), K. Gopinath (IIsc), Suparna Bhattacharya (IBM ), Jan 2010, Bangalore, India. ⟨inria-00468878⟩

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