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LVI: Hijacking transient execution through microarchitectural load value injection


Jo Van Bulck, Daniel Moghimi, Michael Schwarz, Moritz Lipp, Marina Minkin, Daniel Genkin, Yuval Yarom, Berk Sunar, Daniel Gruss and Frank Piessens

University of Michigan


Graz University of Technology

KU Leuven

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

The University of Adelaide


The recent Spectre attack first showed how to inject incorrect branch targets into a victim domain by poisoning microarchitectural branch prediction history. In this paper, we generalize injection-based methodologies to the memory hierarchy by directly injecting incorrect, attacker-controlled values into a victim’s transient execution. We propose Load Value Injection (LVI) as an innovative technique to reversely exploit Meltdown-type microarchitectural data leakage. LVI abuses that faulting or assisted loads, executed by a legitimate victim program, may transiently use dummy values or poisoned data from various microarchitectural buffers, before eventually being re-issued by the processor. We show how LVI gadgets allow to expose victim secrets and hijack transient control flow. We practically demonstrate LVI in several proof-of-concept attacks against Intel SGX enclaves, and we discuss implications for traditional user process and kernel isolation. State-of-the-art Meltdown and Spectre defenses, including widespread silicon-level and microcode mitigations, are orthogonal to our novel LVI techniques. LVI drastically widens the spectrum of incorrect transient paths. Fully mitigating our attacks requires serializing the processor pipeline with lfence instructions after possibly every memory load. Additionally and even worse, due to implicit loads, certain instructions have to be blacklisted, including the ubiquitous x86 ret instruction. Intel plans compiler and assembler-based full mitigations that will allow at least SGX enclave programs to remain secure on LVI-vulnerable systems. Depending on the application and optimization strategy, we observe extensive overheads of factor 2 to 19 for prototype implementations of the full mitigation.

BibTeX Entry

    publisher        = {ACM},
    doi              = {},
    month            = may,
    paperurl         = {},
    year             = {2020},
    booktitle        = {IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy},
    title            = {{LVI}: Hijacking Transient Execution through Microarchitectural Load Value Injection},
    pages            = {1452-1470},
    author           = {Van Bulck, Jo and Moghimi, Daniel and Schwarz, Michael and Lipp, Moritz and Minkin, Marina and
                        Genkin, Daniel and Yarom, Yuval and Sunar, Berk and Gruss, Daniel and Piessens, Frank},
    address          = {San Francisco},
    date             = {2020-5-18}