Improving Memory Security and Reliability by Overcoming the Threat of Rowhammer

Moinuddin Qureshi
Thursday | 7th December 2023 | 3 pm
CC 109, 01st Floor, New CSE/CC Bldg.

Rowhammer allows an attacker to induce bit flips in a row by rapidly accessing neighboring rows. Rowhammer is not just a reliability concern but a severe security threat as it can be used to escalate privilege or break confidentiality. The problem of Rowhammer continues to become worse for two reasons: (1) The threshold of activations needed to induce Rowhammer reduces with each generation, coming down by 30x in the last 7 years (2) Attackers continue to come up with complex patterns that can break all hardware-based defenses, including the ones commercially employed in current chips.

Currently, there is no guaranteed solution for Rowhammer. Hardware-based mitigation of Rowhammer typically consists of two parts: a tracker to identify aggressor rows and a mitigating action. At low thresholds tracking incurs significant SRAM overheads (several megabytes). Furthermore, the common mitigating action of refreshing neighboring victim rows is susceptible to the Half-Double attack from Google. In this talk, I will discuss our recent solutions that enable low-cost tracking of aggressor rows even at ultra-low thresholds (ISCA’22), a new mitigating action of performing dynamic row migration that is resilient to complex attacks patterns (ASPLOS’22 and MICRO’22), and a Rowhammer-aware ECC design that provides in-built memory integrity-protection while incurring virtually zero performance and storage overheads (HPCA’22).

Speaker Biography

Moinuddin Qureshi is a Professor of Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research interests include computer architecture, hardware security, and quantum computing. Qureshi received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007. He was a research scientist at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center (2007 2011), where he developed the caching algorithms for Power 7 Systems. Qureshi received the 2022 ACM SIGARCH Maurice Wilkes Award for contributions to high-performance memory systems and was inducted as an ACM Fellow and an IEEE Fellow. His research has been recognized with multiple best-paper awards, multiple IEEE Top-Picks awards and multiple Persistent Impact Prize. Recently, three of his lead-author papers (ISCA’07, ISCA’09, ISCA’19) were selected to appear at ISCA-50 retrospective. Qureshi received the 2020 “Outstanding Researcher Award” from Intel and an “Outstanding Technical Achievement” award from IBM Research. More information at


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