O Defeating Power Consumption Attacks

There are two obvious solutions to defeat this type of attack. First, prevent the information from becoming available through the filtering of supply channels by using a UPS with a surge filter. This technique shows a constant power drain on the electrical system, regardless of the actual computer consumption.

The other method is to introduce as much spurious data into the equation as possible, either by introducing pauses and waits into the code or by running multiple things at the same time as your secure program or, better still, by doing both.

A third, less obvious solution is to change the power draw on the Linux system at random time intervals. Not much study has been done on the effects on a CPU and other hardware components of frequently and randomly changing voltage states. Modern laptops do dynamically change power states on the fly to conserve battery power; therefore, this solution may be quite feasible.

Linux offers a way to do this with the Advanced Configuration & Power Interface (ACPI). Newer kernels place the power information in /sys devices. The older ones, however, house this information in the /proc/acpi directory.

The main configuration points for ACPI to minimize the success of power consumption attacks are the following:

• Power management When power management is available, the ACPI system can put the CPU into a sleep state that minimizes power draw on the CPU.

• Throttling control The use of throttling will force the CPU to be put to sleep for short time periods. These periods can be user-defined and would be the most interesting state to randomize. However, this would cause a huge performance hit on busy systems. The documentation for ACPI is available at

http://www.lesswatts.org/projects/acpi/.

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