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Compositional Verification of Security Properties for Embedded Execution Platforms

16 pagesPublished: October 4, 2017


The security of embedded systems can be dramatically improved through the use of formally verified isolation mechanisms such as separation kernels, hypervisors, or microkernels. For trustworthiness, particularly for system level behaviour, the verifications need precise models of the underlying hardware. Such models are hard to attain, highly complex, and proofs of their security properties may not easily apply to similar but different platforms. This may render verification economically infeasible.

To address these issues, we propose a compositional top-down approach to embedded system specification and verification, where the system-on-chip is modeled as a network of distributed automata communicating via paired synchronous message passing. Using abstract specifications for each component allows to delay the development of detailed models for cores, devices, etc., while still being able to verify high level security properties like integrity and confidentiality, and soundly refine the result for different instantiations of the abstract components at a later stage.

As a case study, we apply this methodology to the verification of information flow security for an industry scale security-oriented hypervisor on the ARMv8-A platform. The hypervisor statically assigns (multiple) cores to each guest system and implements a rudimentary, but usable, inter guest communication discipline. We have completed a pen-and-paper security proof for the hypervisor down to state transition level and report on a partially completed verification of guest mode security in the HOL4 theorem prover.

Keyphrases: ARMv8, decomposition, formal verification, hardware platform, Hypervisor, SoC, System Security

In: Ulrich Kühne, Jean-Luc Danger and Sylvain Guilley (editors). PROOFS 2017. 6th International Workshop on Security Proofs for Embedded Systems, vol 49, pages 1--16

BibTeX entry
  author    = {Christoph Baumann and Oliver Schwarz and Mads Dam},
  title     = {Compositional Verification of Security Properties for Embedded Execution Platforms},
  booktitle = {PROOFS 2017. 6th International Workshop on Security Proofs for Embedded Systems},
  editor    = {Ulrich K\textbackslash{}"uhne and Jean-Luc Danger and Sylvain Guilley},
  series    = {EPiC Series in Computing},
  volume    = {49},
  pages     = {1--16},
  year      = {2017},
  publisher = {EasyChair},
  bibsource = {EasyChair,},
  issn      = {2398-7340},
  url       = {},
  doi       = {10.29007/h4rv}}
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