Hey there, I’m Neil Zhao (赵子瑞/趙子瑞), a final-year PhD Candidate in Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), advised by Prof. Josep Torrellas. I received a Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 2018. During my time at USTC, I was part of the School of the Gifted Young and was also selected for the Yan Jici Talent Students Program.

My research interests lie in Computer Architecture, System Security, and Cloud Computing. Specifically, I study side-channel attacks and defenses across the full cloud-computing stack in realistic cloud settings. I have recently demonstrated end-to-end side-channel attacks within Google Cloud’s production environment [ASPLOS 2024a, ASPLOS 2024b] and discovered a low-noise side channel in Intel CPUs [USENIX Security 2022]. Moreover, I designed side-channel defenses from a wide range of angles, including information theory [ASPLOS 2023], CPU cache systems [ASPLOS 2022], operating systems [under-review], program analyses [MICRO 2020, ASPLOS 2021], and data-oblivious programming practices [CCS 2023]. I received W. J. Poppelbaum Memorial Award for creativity in computer architecture design from the CS department of UIUC in 2023. My long-term vision is to build secure and efficient public clouds resistant to side-channel attacks.

I am on the academic job market this year, looking for a tenure-track faculty position. Here is my CV.

Contact Information: I am best reached at ziruiz6@illinois.edu.

Publications

  1. Last-Level Cache Side-Channel Attacks Are Feasible in the Modern Public Cloud
    by Zirui Neil Zhao, Adam Morrison, Christopher W. Fletcher, Josep Torrellas
    29th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2024), pages to-appear, La Jolla, CA, USA, May 2024
    [paper, code]

  2. Everywhere All at Once: Co-Location Attacks on Public Cloud FaaS
    by Zirui Neil Zhao, Adam Morrison, Christopher W. Fletcher, Josep Torrellas
    29th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2024), pages to-appear, La Jolla, CA, USA, May 2024
    [paper, slides, code]

  3. Declassiflow: A Static Analysis for Modeling Non-Speculative Knowledge to Relax Speculative Execution Security Measures
    by Rutvik Choudhary, Alan Wang, Zirui Neil Zhao, Adam Morrison, Christopher W. Fletcher
    ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS 2023), pages 2053-2067, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 2023
    [paper]

  4. Untangle: A Principled Framework to Design Low-Leakage, High-Performance Dynamic Partitioning Schemes
    by Zirui Neil Zhao, Adam Morrison, Christopher W. Fletcher, Josep Torrellas
    28th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2023), Volume 3, pages 771-788, Vancouver, BC, Canada, March 2023
    [paper, slides]
    IEEE Micro Top Picks 2024 Honorable Mention

  5. Binoculars: Contention-Based Side-Channel Attacks Exploiting the Page Walker
    by Zirui Neil Zhao, Adam Morrison, Christopher W. Fletcher, Josep Torrellas
    31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 2022), pages 699-716, Boston, MA, USA, August 2022
    [paper, slides, code]

  6. Pinned Loads: Taming Speculative Loads in Secure Processors
    by Zirui Neil Zhao, Houxiang Ji, Adam Morrison, Darko Marinov, Josep Torrellas
    27th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2022), pages 314–328, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 2022.
    [paper, slides, code]

  7. PaCon: A Symbolic Analysis Approach for Tactic-Oriented Clustering of Programming Submissions
    by Yingjie Fu, Jonathan Osei-Owusu, Angello Astorga, Zirui Neil Zhao, Wei Zhang, Tao Xie
    ACM SIGPLAN International Symposium on SPLASH-E, pages 32-42, Chicago, IL, USA, October 2021
    [paper]

  8. Jamais Vu: Thwarting Microarchitectural Replay Attacks
    by Dimitrios Skarlatos*, Zirui Neil Zhao*, Riccardo Paccagnella, Christopher W. Fletcher, Josep Torrellas
    26th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2021), pages 1061-1076, Virtual Event, April 2021
    *Authors contributed equally to this work
    [paper, slides, code]

  9. Speculative Interference Attacks: Breaking Invisible Speculation Schemes
    by Mohammad Behnia, Prateek Sahu, Riccardo Paccagnella, Jiyong Yu, Zirui Neil Zhao, Xiang Zou, Thomas Unterluggauer, Josep Torrellas, Carlos V. Rozas, Adam Morrison, Frank McKeen, Fangfei Liu, Ron Gabor, Christopher W. Fletcher, Abhishek Basak, Alaa R. Alameldeen
    26th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2021), pages 1046-1060, Virtual Event, April 2021
    [paper, slides, code]

  10. Speculation Invariance (InvarSpec): Faster Safe Execution Through Program Analysis
    by Zirui Neil Zhao, Houxiang Ji, Mengjia Yan, Jiyong Yu, Christopher W. Fletcher, Adam Morrison, Darko Marinov, Josep Torrellas
    53rd Annual IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture (MICRO 2020), pages 1138–1152, Virtual Event, October, 2020
    [paper, slides]

  11. Benchmarking the Capability of Symbolic Execution Tools with Logic Bombs
    by Hui Xu, Zirui Neil Zhao, Yangfan Zhou, Michael R. Lyu
    IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, volume 17, issue 6, pages 1243–1256, 2020
    [paper, code]

Teaching

  1. Parallel Computer Architecture (UIUC), Spring 2023 — Teaching Assistant
  2. C Language Programming II (USTC), Spring 2017 — Teaching Assistant
  3. Electromagnetism B (USTC), Fall 2016 — Teaching Assistant

Service

  1. Welcomed Prospective Undergraduate Students During Campus Visits (UIUC), 2022 and 2023
  2. 28th International Symposium on Model Checking of Software (SPIN) Web Chair, 2022
  3. Automated Software Engineering (ASE) Co-Reviewer, 2020 and 2021
  4. Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS) Co-Reviewer, 2019
  5. International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) Co-Reviewer, 2019