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Graduate Seminar | Isolation in the cloud: control the system calls, control the attackers

Isolation in the cloud: control the system calls, control the attackers

Dr. Dan Williams
Friday, October 14, 2022
2:30-3:45 PM
Torgersen 2150

The cloud is an environment in which multiple mutually-distrusting tenants share a host OS and rely on the cloud provider to maintain isolation.  In this talk I will provide an overview of my research into limiting access to the host system through system calls in a cloud environment.  The talk will first discuss approaches that deprivilege kernel functionality, either by using traditional virtualization or with process system call filtering.  Then I will discuss opportunities and issues when filtering system calls on processes (without deprivileging kernel functionality), highlighting two recent projects 1) leveraging scheduling and 2) optimizing filter chains.  I will conclude by stepping back to look more broadly at eBPF (the safe Linux kernel extension mechanism underlying its system call filtering mechanism) and the future directions it inspires.



Dan Williams is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, which he joined in August 2021. Prior to joining VT, he spent 10 years as a Research Staff Member at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY. His research investigates the systems abstractions for running programs securely and isolated from one another even in shared environments like the cloud. He is the original author of the Solo5 unikernel execution environment, and a co-creator of unikernel-inspired Nabla containers.