Maya: Using formal control to obfuscate power side channels

Raghavendra Pradyumna Pothukuchi, Sweta Yamini Pothukuchi, Petros G. Voulgaris, Alexander Schwing, Josep Torrellas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The security of computers is at risk because of information leaking through their power consumption. Attackers can use advanced signal measurement and analysis to recover sensitive data from this side channel.To address this problem, this paper presents Maya, a simple and effective defense against power side channels. The idea is to use formal control to re-shape the power dissipated by a computer in an application-transparent manner - preventing attackers from learning any information about the applications that are running. With formal control, a controller can reliably keep power close to a desired target function even when runtime conditions change unpredictably. By selecting the target function intelligently, the controller can make power to follow any desired shape, appearing to carry activity information which, in reality, is unrelated to the application. Maya can be implemented in privileged software, firmware, or simple hardware. In this paper, we implement Maya on three machines using privileged threads only, and show its effectiveness and ease of deployment. Maya has already thwarted a newly-developed remote power attack.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2021 ACM/IEEE 48th Annual International Symposium on Computer Architecture, ISCA 2021
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781665433334
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Event48th ACM/IEEE Annual International Symposium on Computer Architecture, ISCA 2021 - Virtual, Online, Spain
Duration: Jun 14 2021Jun 19 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Symposium on Computer Architecture
ISSN (Print)1063-6897


Conference48th ACM/IEEE Annual International Symposium on Computer Architecture, ISCA 2021
CityVirtual, Online


  • Control theory
  • Machine learning
  • Obfuscation
  • Physical side channels
  • Power side channels
  • Security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture


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