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Do you--or anyone?--know of a good place to know the status of "what actually is the bounds of safe"? Like, "if you use Linux X.Y with this compiler setting and option set then separate processes are safe" or "if you use Xen X.Y and are a Linux guest--maybe also at some X.Y/whatever--that is safe"... or are we simply at "if you share any CPU hardware at all, you are never safe and should give up hope"?



I think there are so many side-channels we don't know them all. In the limit I think the classification for side-channels has at least four axes:

1. What data can be leaked? (scope)

2. How difficult is it to construct a gadget?

3. What is the signal-to-noise ratio of the channel?

4. What is the bandwidth of the channel?

The original 3 Spectre variants were basically "whole process or whole of memory, easy, tens of dB, and many kilobytes a second".

If you're looking for binary safety w.r.t side channels, I think modern hardware cannot actually guarantee it.


I can't tell if you are saying "without changing compiler flags, you always lose, even across all possible configurations of even a hypervisor" or if you are saying "without having control over some aspect of the attacker (as in, they can't just give you a binary)". I feel like it can't be the former, or you would have just said that instead of trying to procure some kind of mental framework; but that means the answer now is in some explanation of the latter criteria; essentially, the question is "what are the conservative bounds of current-safe?" (which might get smaller if new vulnerabilities are found or might get bigger if people discover some fascinating mitigation), not "what is a subset of things that are absolute-unsafe"... the latter I can find and even sometimes understand, but the former is what is actually useful for people building systems, so I keep hoping to find a guide somewhere.




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