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Subject[PATCH, RFC 58/62] x86/mktme: Document the MKTME provided security mitigations
From: Alison Schofield <>

Describe the security benefits of Multi-Key Total Memory
Encryption (MKTME) over Total Memory Encryption (TME) alone.

Signed-off-by: Alison Schofield <>
Signed-off-by: Kirill A. Shutemov <>
Documentation/x86/mktme/index.rst | 1 +
Documentation/x86/mktme/mktme_mitigations.rst | 150 ++++++++++++++++++
2 files changed, 151 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 Documentation/x86/mktme/mktme_mitigations.rst

diff --git a/Documentation/x86/mktme/index.rst b/Documentation/x86/mktme/index.rst
index 1614b52dd3e9..a3a29577b013 100644
--- a/Documentation/x86/mktme/index.rst
+++ b/Documentation/x86/mktme/index.rst
@@ -6,3 +6,4 @@ Multi-Key Total Memory Encryption (MKTME)
.. toctree::

+ mktme_mitigations
diff --git a/Documentation/x86/mktme/mktme_mitigations.rst b/Documentation/x86/mktme/mktme_mitigations.rst
new file mode 100644
index 000000000000..90699c38750a
--- /dev/null
+++ b/Documentation/x86/mktme/mktme_mitigations.rst
@@ -0,0 +1,150 @@
+MKTME-Provided Mitigations
+MKTME adds a few mitigations against attacks that are not
+mitigated when using TME alone. The first set are mitigations
+against software attacks that are familiar today:
+ * Kernel Mapping Attacks: information disclosures that leverage
+ the kernel direct map are mitigated against disclosing user
+ data.
+ * Freed Data Leak Attacks: removing an encryption key from the
+ hardware mitigates future user information disclosure.
+The next set are attacks that depend on specialized hardware,
+such as an “evil DIMM” or a DDR interposer:
+ * Cross-Domain Replay Attack: data is captured from one domain
+(guest) and replayed to another at a later time.
+ * Cross-Domain Capture and Delayed Compare Attack: data is
+ captured and later analyzed to discover secrets.
+ * Key Wear-out Attack: data is captured and analyzed in order
+ to Weaken the AES encryption itself.
+More details on these attacks are below.
+Kernel Mapping Attacks
+Information disclosure vulnerabilities leverage the kernel direct
+map because many vulnerabilities involve manipulation of kernel
+data structures (examples: CVE-2017-7277, CVE-2017-9605). We
+normally think of these bugs as leaking valuable *kernel* data,
+but they can leak application data when application pages are
+recycled for kernel use.
+With this MKTME implementation, there is a direct map created for
+each MKTME KeyID which is used whenever the kernel needs to
+access plaintext. But, all kernel data structures are accessed
+via the direct map for KeyID-0. Thus, memory reads which are not
+coordinated with the KeyID get garbage (for example, accessing
+KeyID-4 data with the KeyID-0 mapping).
+This means that if sensitive data encrypted using MKTME is leaked
+via the KeyID-0 direct map, ciphertext decrypted with the wrong
+key will be disclosed. To disclose plaintext, an attacker must
+“pivot” to the correct direct mapping, which is non-trivial
+because there are no kernel data structures in the KeyID!=0
+direct mapping.
+Freed Data Leak Attack
+The kernel has a history of bugs around uninitialized data.
+Usually, we think of these bugs as leaking sensitive kernel data,
+but they can also be used to leak application secrets.
+MKTME can help mitigate the case where application secrets are
+ * App (or VM) places a secret in a page * App exits or frees
+memory to kernel allocator * Page added to allocator free list *
+Attacker reallocates page to a purpose where it can read the page
+Now, imagine MKTME was in use on the memory being leaked. The
+data can only be leaked as long as the key is programmed in the
+hardware. If the key is de-programmed, like after all pages are
+freed after a guest is shut down, any future reads will just see
+Basically, the key is a convenient choke-point: you can be more
+confident that data encrypted with it is inaccessible once the
+key is removed.
+Cross-Domain Replay Attack
+MKTME mitigates cross-domain replay attacks where an attacker
+replaces an encrypted block owned by one domain with a block
+owned by another domain. MKTME does not prevent this replacement
+from occurring, but it does mitigate plaintext from being
+disclosed if the domains use different keys.
+With TME, the attack could be executed by:
+ * A victim places secret in memory, at a given physical address.
+ Note: AES-XTS is what restricts the attack to being performed
+ at a single physical address instead of across different
+ physical addresses
+ * Attacker captures victim secret’s ciphertext * Later on, after
+ victim frees the physical address, attacker gains ownership
+ * Attacker puts the ciphertext at the address and get the secret
+ plaintext
+But, due to the presumably different keys used by the attacker
+and the victim, the attacker can not successfully decrypt old
+Cross-Domain Capture and Delayed Compare Attack
+This is also referred to as a kind of dictionary attack.
+Similarly, MKTME protects against cross-domain capture-and-compare
+attacks. Consider the following scenario:
+ * A victim places a secret in memory, at a known physical address
+ * Attacker captures victim’s ciphertext
+ * Attacker gains control of the target physical address, perhaps
+ after the victim’s VM is shut down or its memory reclaimed.
+ * Attacker computes and writes many possible plaintexts until new
+ ciphertext matches content captured previously.
+Secrets which have low (plaintext) entropy are more vulnerable to
+this attack because they reduce the number of possible plaintexts
+an attacker has to compute and write.
+The attack will not work if attacker and victim uses different
+Key Wear-out Attack
+Repeated use of an encryption key might be used by an attacker to
+infer information about the key or the plaintext, weakening the
+encryption. The higher the bandwidth of the encryption engine,
+the more vulnerable the key is to wear-out. The MKTME memory
+encryption hardware works at the speed of the memory bus, which
+has high bandwidth.
+Such a weakness has been demonstrated[1] on a theoretical cipher
+with similar properties as AES-XTS.
+An attack would take the following steps:
+ * Victim system is using TME with AES-XTS-128
+ * Attacker repeatedly captures ciphertext/plaintext pairs (can
+ be Performed with online hardware attack like an interposer).
+ * Attacker compels repeated use of the key under attack for a
+ sustained time period without a system reboot[2].
+ * Attacker discovers a cipertext collision (two plaintexts
+ translating to the same ciphertext)
+ * Attacker can induce controlled modifications to the targeted
+ plaintext by modifying the colliding ciphertext
+MKTME mitigates key wear-out in two ways:
+ * Keys can be rotated periodically to mitigate wear-out. Since
+ TME keys are generated at boot, rotation of TME keys requires a
+ reboot. In contrast, MKTME allows rotation while the system is
+ booted. An application could implement a policy to rotate keys
+ at a frequency which is not feasible to attack.
+ * In the case that MKTME is used to encrypt two guests’ memory
+ with two different keys, an attack on one guest’s key would not
+ weaken the key used in the second guest.
+2. This sustained time required for an attack could vary from days
+ to years depending on the attacker’s goals.
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