Professional Course

Transient-Execution Attacks: Understanding Meltdown and Spectre

edX, Online
10 weeks
149 USD
Next course start
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Virtual Classroom
10 weeks
149 USD
Next course start
Inquire for more information See details
Virtual Classroom
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Course description

Transient-Execution Attacks: Understanding Meltdown and Spectre

In this course, we build upon the knowledge we built up so far on cache side-channel attacks as well as the side-channel and security mindset. We will then go beyond software-based side-channel attacks and study transient-execution attacks. Transient execution is a mechanism present in modern processors, where the processor performs operations, often speculatively, that it later on has to undo. However, the side effects of these operations remain and leak data (not meta-data!) to the attacker. Similar to the prior courses, we provide you with the experience of discovering these attacks yourself in a group of students, living in a shared appartment. We again dive deeper into the microarchitecture and will now understand out-of-order pipelines and how their behavior introduces leakage. We will then use side channels to exfiltrate data and transmit it to an attacker-controlled application. We will learn about the most prominent of these attacks: Meltdown, Spectre, Foreshadow, and ZombieLoad. You will implement some of these attacks yourself, which requires skills in reading and writing C code. You will learn which attacks are relevant in the concrete native and virtualized environments you are working with, contributing to your risk assessment skills. In a set of small exercises, you will implement some of these attacks and show that you understood out-of-order execution pipelines, transient-execution attacks and potential mitigations against them.

Upcoming start dates

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  • Virtual Classroom
  • Online
  • English

Who should attend?


Knowledge and skills from the prerequisite course Side Channel Security S3: Cache Side-Channel Attacks and Mitigations. Knowledge and skills from Side Channel Security S4: Physical and Advanced Side-Channel Attacks are strongly recommended.

We expect C and C++ programming skills on a similar level as in the prerequisite course. You may have obtained these as part of a university program such as computer science or a high school degree with a focus on computer science.

Training content

Episode 1: Haunted by Spectre

Speculative behaviors can leak secrets from other programs.

Episode 2: Daniel has a Meltdown

Computers sometimes leak secrets before realizing they shouldn't.

Episode 3: Trust Issues

We investigate trusted execution environments for isolation.

Episode 4: Foreshadow

We investigate transient-execution attacks on trusted execution environments.

Episode 5: Noise is just someone else's data

Remaining noise turns out to still be data leakage.

Course delivery details

This course is offered through Graz University of Technology, a partner institute of Trinity College.

3-4 hours per week


  • Verified Track -$149
  • Audit Track - Free

Certification / Credits

What you'll learn

  • Understand the difference between side-channel attacks and transient-execution attacks
  • Build up the ability to recognize which software may be exposed to transient-execution vulnerabilities
  • Understand the immense security risks posed by transient-execution attacks and how these attacks can be mitigated

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