Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Computer Science

Reader 1

Eleanor Birrell

Reader 2

Christopher Towse

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

2019 Rae Y Harris


Modern processors use architecture like caches, branch predictors, and speculative execution in order to maximize computation throughput. For instance, recently accessed memory can be stored in a cache so that subsequent accesses take less time. Unfortunately microarchitecture-based side channel attacks can utilize this cache property to enable unauthorized memory accesses. The Spectre attack is a recent example of this attack.

The Spectre attack is particularly dangerous because the vulnerabilities that it exploits are found in microprocessors used in billions of current systems. It involves the attacker inducing a victim’s process to speculatively execute code with a malicious input and store the recently accessed memory into the cache.

This paper describes the previous microarchitecture side channel attacks. It then describes the three variants of the Spectre attack. It describes and evaluates proposed defenses against Spectre.