Mengjia Yan

Homer A. Burnell Career Development Professor
Assistant Professor, MIT EECS
The Stata Center, 32G-840
32 Vassar St, Cambridge, MA 02139
mengjiay [at] mit [dot] edu

I’m an assistant professor at MIT's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. My research interest lies in the areas of computer architecture and security, with a focus on side channel attacks and defenses. My group works on exploiting new micro-architectural vulnerabilities and designing comprehensive and efficient defense mechanisms.

Before joining MIT, I earned a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where I worked with Professor Josep Torrellas. I received a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Zhejiang University, China.

I'm looking for highly-motivated PhD, MEng, and UROP students. If you are interested in working together, please read below.
  • PhD: If you are a current MIT student, feel free to email me to schedule a meeting. For others, I would like to suggest following the normal PhD application process and indicate me as a preferred reader when submitting your application.
  • MEng and UROP: If you are a current MIT student, I would recommend taking 6.888 Secure Hardware Design or 6.823 Computer System Architecture. I usually take on students from these courses. If you could not take these courses, I would suggest filling in this form to help me understand your background. For students interested in summer internship positions, please send me an email with your CV and a statement to describe your past project highlights.


News

  • 11/2022: CaSA is selected as an honorable mention in the Top Picks in Hardware and Embedded Security.
  • 09/2022: I received the Intel Rising Star Faculty Award, which recognizes research efforts of leading early-career professionals. Link
  • 09/2022: I gave a keynote at the SEED workshop (IEEE International Symposium on Secure and Private Execution Environment Design): Looking Beyond Microarchitectural-Only Side Channels.   slides   splitted slides video
  • 07/2022: We are releasing five hands-on lab assignements for studying micro-architectural attacks, including side channels, Rowhammer attacks, and ML-assisted attacks. Feel free to read this SigARCH blog post for more details.
  • 06/2022: I am co-organizing the Microarchitectural Attacks and Defenses (MAD) Tutorial (co-located with ISCA'22). Welcome to attend.
  • 06/2022: PACMAN got a lot of media coverage. Recommend the article from IEEE Spectrum. PACMAN will also be presetned at DEFCON.
  • 06/2022: Bigger Fish was spotlighted at the MIT homepage. Check out the MIT News report.
  • 05/2022: A paper on Mesh NoC side channel attacks is accepted at USENIX Security 2022.

  • 04/2022: I gave a talk "Security Analysis of Misunderstood Side-channel Attacks and Defenses" at the New England Hardware Security Workshop (NEHSW'22).   Workshop Link   Video
  • 03/2022: Two papers are accepted at ISCA 2022.
  • 02/2022: I am co-organizing the Fourth Young Architect Workshop (YArch) in conjunction with ASPLOS 2022.
  • 11/2021: DAGguise is accepted at ASPLOS 2022.
  • 04/2021: CaSA is selected as a finalist (out of 4) of Intel Hardware Security Academic Award.
  • 03/2021: I am co-organizing the Third Young Architect Workshop (YArch) in conjunction with ASPLOS 2021. Please find the schedule of the workshop here.
  • 02/2021: Received the NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award.
  • 07/2020: CaSA and InvarSpec are accepted at MICRO 2020.
  • 07/2020: STT is selected as a CACM Research Highlight.
  • 06/2020: My PhD thesis "Cache-based Side Channels: Modern Attacks and Defenses" is selected as an honorable mention of the 2020 ACM SIGARCH/IEEE CS TCCA Outstanding Dissertation Award.
  • 05/2020: STT is nominated by SIGMICRO as a CACM Research Highlight.
  • 01/2020: STT and Microscope are selected as MICRO Top Picks 2020.
  • 10/2019: My PhD thesis "Cache-based Side Channels: Modern Attacks and Defenses" is selected for the David J. Kuck Outstanding PhD Thesis Award.
  • 10/2019: "Speculative Taint Tracking (STT): A Comprehensive Protection for Transiently Accessed Secrets" won the best paper award at MICRO 2019.
  • 09/2019: "Cache Telepathy" is accepted at USENIX Security 2020.

Students

PostDoc: PhDs: Visiting Students:
  • Vincent Ulitzsch (TU Berlin)
MEngs:
  • Miguel Gomez-Garcia
  • Georgia E Shay
UROPs:
  • Muhammad Abdullah
  • Shashvat Srivastava
  • Willian Liu
  • Yuxuan Zheng
Alumni:
  • Jack Cook (Robert M. Fano UROP Award, Rhodes Scholar)
  • Brandon John (MEng'22 → Lincoln Lab)
  • Miles Dai (MEng'21 → Google OpenTitan)

Teaching

  • 6.1910[6.004] Computation Structures: Spring 2021 (Recitation), Fall 2021
  • 6.5900[6.823] Computer System Architecture: Spring 2020, Fall 2022
  • 6.S983[6.888] Secure Hardware Design: Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Publications

  • PACMAN: Attacking ARM Pointer Authentication with Speculative Execution; Joseph Ravichandran*, Weon Taek Na*, Jay Lang, Mengjia Yan; ISCA, 2022.
    paper   slides   video (ISCA Talk)   pacmanattack.com   ARM Security Article
    PACMAN 2.0:   code (including Rust PoC, PacmanKit, PacmanPatcher)   DEFCON talk (coming soon)  
    Media Coverage: [IEEE Spectrum] [TechCrunch] [MIT News] [The Register] [Dark Reading] [机器之心] [Macworld] [Cryotweaks] [Tom's Hardware] [New York Daily Paper] [VentureBeat] [phoronix] [channel969] [9To5Mac] [CHAROPF] [The Hacker News] [Security Affairs]
  • There's Always a Bigger Fish: A Clarifying Analysis of a Machine-Learning-Assisted Side-Channel Attack; Jack Cook, Jules Drean, Jonathan Behrens, Mengjia Yan; ISCA, 2022.
    paper   slides   video (ISCA Talk)   open-source release   demo   MIT News
  • Don’t Mesh Around: Side-Channel Attacks and Mitigations on Mesh Interconnects; Miles Dai*, Riccardo Paccagnella*, Miguel Gomez-Garcia, John McCalpin, Mengjia Yan; USENIX Security, 2022.
    paper   open-source release   MIT News
  • DAGguise: Mitigating Memory Timing Side Channels; Peter W. Deutsch*, Yuheng Yang*, Thomas Bourgeat, Jules Drean, Joel Emer, Mengjia Yan; ASPLOS, 2022.
    paper   slides   open-source release   MIT News   NSF Research News
  • SpecTaint: Speculative Taint Analysis for Discovering Spectre Gadgets; Zhenxiao Qi, Qian Feng, Yueqiang Cheng, Mengjia Yan, Peng Li, Heng Yin, Tao Wei; NDSS, 2021.
    paper  
  • CaSA: End-to-end Quantitative Security Analysis of Randomly Mapped Caches; Thomas Bourgeat*, Jules Drean*, Yuheng Yang, Lillian Tsai, Joel Emer, Mengjia Yan; MICRO, 2020.
    Intel Hardware Security Academic Award Finalist
    Top Picks in Hardware and Embedded Security Honorable Mention
    paper  
  • Speculation Invariance (InvarSpec): Faster Safe Execution Through Program Analysis; Zirui Zhao, Houxiang Ji, Mengjia Yan, Jiyong Yu, Christopher W. Fletcher, Adam Morrison, Darko Marinov, Josep Torrellas; MICRO, 2020.
    paper   slides  
  • Cache Telepathy: Leveraging Shared Resource Attacks to Learn DNN Architectures; Mengjia Yan, Christopher W. Fletcher, Josep Torrellas; USENIX Security, 2020.
    paper  
  • Speculative Taint Tracking (STT): A Comprehensive Protection for Speculatively Accessed Data; Jiyong Yu, Mengjia Yan, Artem Khyzha, Adam Morrison, Josep Torrellas, Christopher W. Fletcher; MICRO, 2019.
    Best Paper Award
    IEEE Micro's Top Picks 2019
    Communications of the ACM Research Highlight (CACM)
    paper   slides   formal analysis/security proof  
  • SecDir: A Secure Directory to Defeat Directory Side-Channel Attacks; Mengjia Yan, Jen-Yang Wen, Christopher Fletcher, Josep Torrellas; ISCA, 2019.
    paper   slides  
  • MicroScope: Enabling Microarchitectural Replay Attacks; Dimitrios Skarlatos, Mengjia Yan, Bhargava Gopireddy, Read Sprabery, Josep Torrellas, Christopher Fletcher; ISCA, 2019.
    IEEE Micro's Top Picks 2019
    paper   slides   open-source release  
  • Attack Directories, Not Caches: Side Channel Attacks in a Non-Inclusive World; Mengjia Yan, Read Sprabery, Bhargava Gopireddy, Christopher W. Fletcher, Roy Campbell, Josep Torrellas; S&P, 2019.
    paper   slides   talk video  
  • InvisiSpec: Making Speculative Execution Invisible in the Cache Hierarchy; Mengjia Yan, Jiho Choi, Dimitrios Skarlatos, Adam Morrison, Christopher W. Fletcher, Josep Torrellas; MICRO, 2018.
    IEEE Micro's Top Picks 2018 Honorable Mention
    paper   slides   open-source release  
  • UCNN: Exploiting Computational Reuse in Deep Neural Networks via Weight Repetition; Kartik Hegde, Jiyong Yu, Rohit Agrawal, Mengjia Yan, Michael Pellauer, Christopher W. Fletcher; ISCA, 2018.
    paper  
  • Record-Replay Architecture as a General Security Framework; Yasser Shalabi, Mengjia Yan, Nima Honarmand, Ruby B Lee, Josep Torrellas; HPCA, 2018.
    paper  
  • Secure Hierarchy-Aware Cache Replacement Policy (SHARP): Defending Against Cache-Based Side Channel Attacks; Mengjia Yan, Bhargava Gopireddy, Thomas Shull, Josep Torrellas; ISCA, 2017.
    paper   slides  
  • ReplayConfusion: Detecting Cache-based Covert Channel Attacks Using Record and Replay; Mengjia Yan, Yasser Shalabi, Josep Torrellas; MICRO, 2016.
    paper   slides  
  • Cache-based Side Channels: Modern Attacks and Defenses; Mengjia Yan; Ph.D. Thesis, 2019.
    2020 ACM SIGARCH/IEEE CS TCCA Outstanding Dissertation Award Honorable Mention
    UIUC David J. Kuck Outstanding PhD Thesis Award
    thesis

Service

Program Committee:
  • ISCA 2020, 2021 (ERC), 2022, 2023
  • MICRO 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • ASPLOS 2020 (ERC), 2021, 2022
  • HPCA 2021, 2022
  • Oakland 2023
Organizer/Co-chair:
  • Young Architect Workshop (YArch) 2021, 2022, 2023 (with ASPLOS)
  • Tutorial on Microarchitectural Attacks and Defenses (MAD) 2022 (with ISCA)
  • EECS Rising Stars Workshop 2021
  • Tutorial on Side and Covert Channels: Attacks and Defenses 2019 (with ISCA)
Others:
  • Publicity Co-chair for ASPLOS 2023
  • Area Vice-chair for the Computer Architecture area in IPDPS 2021
  • Publication Chair for MICRO 2021
  • Registration Chair for ISPASS 2020