Compiler-assisted Memory Encryption for Embedded Processors

Vijay Nagarajan, Rajiv Gupta, Arvind Krishnaswamy

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


A critical component in the design of secure processors is memory encryption which provides protection for the privacy of code and data stored in off-chip memory. The overhead of the decryption operation that must precede a load requiring an off-chip memory access, decryption being on the critical path, can significantly degrade performance. Recently hardware counter-based one-time pad encryption techniques [11,13,9] have been proposed to reduce this overhead. For high-end processors the performance impact of decryption has been successfully limited due to: presence of fairly large on-chip L1 and L2 caches that reduce off-chip accesses; and additional hardware support proposed in [13,9] to reduce decryption latency. However, for low- to medium-end embedded processors the performance degradation is high because first they only support small (if any) on-chip L1 caches thus leading to significant off-chip accesses and second the hardware cost of decryption latency reduction solutions in [13,9] is too high making them unattractive for embedded processors. In this paper we present a compiler-assisted strategy that uses minimal hardware support to reduce the overhead of memory encryption in low- to medium-end embedded processors. Our experiments show that the proposed technique reduces average execution time overhead of memory encryption for low-end (medium-end) embedded processor with 0 KB (32 KB) L1 cache from 60% (13.1%), with single counter, to 12.5% (2.1%) by additionally using only 8 hardware counter-registers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2nd International Conference on High Performance Embedded Architectures and Compilers
Place of PublicationBerlin, Heidelberg
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-3-540-69337-6
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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