Thermal Attacks on Storage Systems

Nathanael Paul, Sudhanva Gurumurthi, David Evans
23rd IEEE Conference on Mass Storage Systems and Technologies
College Park, Maryland, May 2006

Disk drives are a performance bottleneck for data-intensive applications. Drive manufacturers have continued to increase the rotational speeds to meet performance requirements, but the faster drives consume more power and run hotter. Future drives will soon be operating at temperatures that threaten drive reliability. One strategy that has been proposed for increasing drive performance without sacrificing reliability is throttling. Throttling delays service to I/O requests after the disk temperature exceeds a set threshold temperature until the temperatures drops. In this paper, we explore the possibility that a malicious attacker with the ability to issue disk read requests may be able to exploit throttling to carry out a denial-ofservice attack on a storage system. Our results reveal that damaging attacks are possible when throttling is used, and argue for the use of variable speed disks as a less vulnerable thermal management alternative.

Complete Paper (9 pages) [PDF]

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