Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud: Exploring Information Leakage in Third-Party Compute Clouds

Thomas Ristenpart, Eran Tromer, Hovav Shacham, and Stefan Savage

Third-party cloud computing represents the promise of outsourcing as applied to computation. Services, such as Microsoft's Azure and Amazon's EC2, allow users to instantiate virtual machines (VMs) on demand and thus purchase precisely the capacity they require when they require it. In turn, the use of virtualization allows third-party cloud providers to maximize the utilization of their sunk capital costs by multiplexing many customer VMs across a shared physical infrastructure. However, in this paper, we show that this approach can also introduce new vulnerabilities. Using the Amazon EC2 service as a case study, we show that it is possible to map the internal cloud infrastructure, identify where a particular target VM is likely to reside, and then instantiate new VMs until one is placed co-resident with the target. We explore how such placement can then be used to mount cross-VM side-channel attacks to extract information from a target VM on the same machine.

Proceedings of Computer and Communications Security -- CCS '09

A version of the paper is available as a pdf.

List of Updates:
August 2009 - Put up paper.