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#+TITLE: List of security papers related to Linux kernel

  • IEEE S&P (2009-2016)

** Space Traveling across VM: Automatically Bridging the Semantic Gap in Virtual Machine Introspection via Online Kernel Data Redirection

This paper presents an alternative methodology for VMI that tries to fix the problem of semantic gap between the operating systems and hypervisor for a more isolation between the OS and monitor. This presents a different mechanism as compared to the tradition system call interposition methods.

** Smashing the Gadgets: Hindering Return-Oriented Programming Using In-Place Code Randomization

This paper focuses on fixing the ROP vulnerabilities by trying to strip off gadgets from a binary. It does so by randomizing the instructions locally and thus breaking the chains of instructions that can be potentially used to perform an ROP attack, decreasing the probability of the attack by 90%.

** Missing the Point(er): On the Effectiveness of Code Pointer Integrity

This paper presents attacks against a recent technique Code Pointer Integrity (CPI) which defends against memory corruption attacks by focusing on safety of code pointers. They present an attack which bypasses the current state of the art mechanisms within 6secc with 13 observed crashes and within 98 hours with no crashes.

** KCoFI: Complete Control-Flow Integrity for Commodity Operating System Kernels

Control Flow Integrity is one of the biggest problems in the systems security today. Compromising the control flow means user can perform any action that a Kernel can effectively do by jumping from one point to other in the code. This paper presents a new technique to provide integrity of code flow in OS Kernel, effective preventing the class of attacks called ROP.

** Dancing with Giants: Wimpy Kernels for On-demand Isolated I/O

Small and simple (wimpy) vs Large and Complex (giants) work with each other to provide a security architecture where that provides an on-demand isolated I/O for the applications running on wimpy kernel. The size and complexity of the wimpy kernel is small and done so by relying on a un-trusted general purpose operating system for I/O and moving the I/O subsystem and drivers to the userspace.

** Practical Control Flow Integrity & Randomization for Binary Executables

Yet another CFI technique that claims to provide better performance as compared to the previous CFI techniques. CFI collects all the points of indirect-control transfer in one single place and then limits the indirect control flow transfers only through them. Because the indirect control transfers are only supposed to be from this one single place, the verification process for pointers becomes easier and hence the higher performance. It also claims to be compatible with legacy binaries.

** SoK: Eternal War in Memory

A must read summary paper about the different types of memory corruption attacks, the paths for different attacks based on the types of bugs exploited through a control flow diagram which explains how these attacks use the existing memory corruption bugs of different types. It also talks in depth about the solutions proposed in the past and comments on their usefulness in modern age.

  • CCS (2009-2016)

** ASLR-Guard: Stopping Address Space Leakage for Code Reuse Attacks

This paper aims to solve the traditional problems with ASLR, information disclosure via memory leaks. It aims to either prevent code pointer leaks or render them useless for actually deriving the address of code points by encoding them. It separates code and data, provides a secure storage for code and data, and encodes the code pointers when treated as data. They claim to offer performance overhead of less than 1% for C/C++ programs.

** Timely Rerandomization for Mitigating Memory Disclosures

This is an interesting idea to extend ASLR to prevent the memory corruption attack by using a simple mechanism. Since, outputs are the chief source of address leakage which renders ASLR useless in traditional scenarios, they re-randomize the address space every time the program gives an output. They add some extra information when compiling the binary to locate code-pointers and re-randomize them at run-time.

** CCFI: Cryptographically Enforced Control Flow Integrity

Another control flow integrity protection mechanism that uses MACs to protect the control flow of the applications. The MAC of the pointer depends on the type of Pointer which classification can happen at runtime (with type casts) or at compile time with static analysis of code. A pointer with same type cannot replace another pointer because of the MAC and also another pointer cannot replace a pointer with different types. Theoretically, it supports over 2^80 types of pointers.

** Practical Context-Sensitive CFI

A lot of CFI techniques exist today in research but the practicality of CFI is still on the big hurdle in their wide-spread adoption. Solutions often have a battle between performance and security guarantees and a comprise on either one of them makes the solution difficult to use in real world. This paper presents a CFI technique that takes into account the context of the control transfer to effectively increase the security guarantees provided by the traditional context-insensitive CFI techniques. It includes static analysis of code, binary instrumentation and relies on commodity hardware feature to enhance the performance.

** Losing Control: On the Effectiveness of Control-Flow Integrity under Stack Attacks

This is an interesting paper which claims to find shortcomings in the proposed CFI techniques and evaluates their effectiveness against stack-based memory corruption attacks. Their attacks are specially targetted towards stack corruption and bypassing the CFI techniques, both coarse grained and fine grained. They also present a technique against shadow stack implementation.

** Control Jujutsu: On the Weaknesses of Fine-Grained Control Flow Integrity

Another paper that exploits the weakness in the fine-grained CFI techniques by mainly focusing on the requirements of the techniques and some common currently available programs. They present proof-of-concept attacks against Apache and Nginx in the presence of a fine gained CFI technique with unlimited tagging and support for a shadow stack.

** Per-Input Control-Flow Integrity

This paper aims to solve the problem of generating Control Flow Graph for Specific Inputs instead of generic inputs thus implementing a finer-grained CFI. This technique uses a run-time addition of input data-types allowed to run; to prevent attackers to add random edges to the CFG for input types, it compares it against the all-allowable edges which is also extracted by statically analyzing the source code.

** A Tale of Two Kernels: Towards Ending Kernel Hardening Wars with Split Kernel

This is a new and innovative concept that claims to solve the problem of poor performance when using hardened kernels. They compile the kernel with some modifications into not one but two kernel, hardened and normal. The process of choosing between them can happen at runtime or by administrator. The un-trusted processes run on the hardened kernel and the other trusted processes run on the normal kernel thus increasing the overall performance as compared to only hardened kernel. They use binary instrumentation techniques and flexiblity of ELF format to have two copy of each function, hardened and normal. They have some checks to keep the hardened control flow within itself by manipulating the code pointers that point to the normal un-hardened functions.

** Hypervision Across Worlds: Real-time Kernel Protection from the ARM TrustZone Secure World

This paper presents a technique to provide security in ARM SoC by leveraging the virtualization for isolation of a security monitoring VM and the normal OS VM. Using different ARMv7 and ARMv8 specific features, they isolate the monitoring VM in such a way that it has full access to the address space of the other VM and can hence host security monitors that verify the run-time integrity of the Operating System in the normal VM. To make sure that the VM cannot bypass the protections, they remove all the memory management related instructions in the kernel and monitor the kernel's integrity so that any malicious process cannot add them back by loading a malicious module or anything else.

** You Can Run but You Can’t Read: Preventing Disclosure Exploits in Executable Code

This paper presents a new technique called as XnR, eXecute but not Read, which allows the running of executable portion of the code but does not allow reading the code as data effective preventing memory disclosure attacks. They claim to have 2.2% and 3.4% overheads for Linux and Windows operating systems even with the absence of any hardware support for XnR.

** DieHarder: Securing the Heap

A new memory allocator design that prevents the heap corruption attacks. This paper talks about the shortcomings of the existing heap allocators in different operating systems today which enable the attacks on heap. It also talks about all the different types of heap based attacks and their countermeasures.

TODO: Compare this with freelist randomization technique that is under discussion right now in the Linux kernel.

** Countering kernel rootkits with lightweight hook protection

This paper presents a technique to prevent hook-indirection in Linux kernel by different attacks that redirect the control flow. It assumes that most of the kernel hooks are not dynamic and aren't changed after initialization. Since modern hardware doesn't provide memory protections are byte granularity, but at page granularity, they move the hooks to page-aligned addresses and control their write access using the hardware protection mechanisms. It adds a 6% overhead.

** Secure In-VM Monitoring Using Hardware Virtualization

This paper presents a secure in-vm monitoring by using the hypervisor to isolate the address space of the monitoring program from the rest of the operating system. This improves the performance of the monitor because there is no need to re-create the semantic information like in out-of-VM solutions.

** Return-Oriented Programming without Returns

** Breaking Kernel Address Space Layout Randomization with Intel TSX

Timing channel attack against Linux KASLR.

** Prefetch Side-Channel Attacks: Bypassing SMAP and Kernel ASLR

Side channel attacks against SMAP and KASLR.

  • USENIX Security

** Baggy Bounds Checking: An Efficient and Backwards-Compatible Defense against Out-of-Bounds Errors

** Cling: A Memory Allocator to Mitigate Dangling Pointers

This paper presents a new memory allocator to defend against use-after-free vulnerabilities. It infers the type information about the pointers by inspecting the call stack and prevent type unsafe address space re-use among pointers of different types.

** kGuard: Lightweight Kernel Protection against Return-to-User Attacks

This paper presents kGuard as a defense mechanism against ROP attacks which leverage userspace to inject ROP gadget chains in the Kernel. kGuard is a compiler plugin which adds inline guards in the kernel which prevent ret2usr attacks with low performance and memory overheads than the previous works in this area. The size of the kernel grows by 3.5-5.6% but the impact of that on real-life applications is minimal.

** Enhanced Operating System Security Through Efficient and Fine-grained Address Space Randomization

This paper claims to present the first fine-grained ASLR technique for modern operating systems. The acknowledge the fact that the assumptions are different when we talk about Kernels as compared to userspace applications. They claim better performance and security than any proposed technique and present a technique called live randomization.

** Poking Holes in Information Hiding

This papers aims to break the ASLR in an yet another innovative way proving that ASLR is no longer a valid protection mechanism against memory disclosure attacks. They claim there is no need for complicated side-channel, probing of mapped region to determine the address of the known code regions in the address-space. Instead, they continuously allocate large chunks of memory to determine the holes in the address space and use that to break the ASLR.

** What Cannot Be Read, Cannot Be Leveraged? Revisiting Assumptions of JIT-ROP Defenses

A recent paper proposed the idea of XnR, eXecute but not Read, to protect against JIT-ROP attacks. This paper analyzes the solution presented in that paper and proves that a successful JIT-ROP attack can still be mounter even in the presence of XnR protection. It then proposes a new mechanism that extends XnR to prevent against JIT-ROP attacks.

** Trustworthy Whole-System Provenance for the Linux Kernel

Provenance-aware systems track the data objects as it changes and gets used in a system. This could help in Kernel protection mechanisms like taint tracking. This paper talks about the security of such provenance-aware systems and presents a system that can be securely deployed as a Linux Provenance Modules (LPM), a generic framework for Linux.

** Automatic Generation of Data-Oriented Exploits

Recently, data-only attacks have gained a lot of attention from researchers. As the code-injection and ROP defenses are being actively worked on, there is little work put into protecting data. There are papers that claim the data only attacks are a real threat today. This paper goes a step ahead and creates an automatic framework to create data-only attacks by leveraging known memory vulnerabilities.

** Control-Flow Bending: On the Effectiveness of Control-Flow Integrity

This paper finds limitations in modern fine-grained CFI techniques which have claimed in past to provide tight security, albeit at the cost of performance. However, they rename data-only attacks to a new term called Control-Flow Bending and prove that CFI techniques cannot successfully prevent data-only attacks. They also talk about the usefulness of shadow-stacks in prevention of a majority of such attacks.

** How the ELF Ruined Christmas

This paper talks about the security of ELF executable format and explains how the ability to dynamically determine the location of critical functions can may help in bypassing protection mechanisms like ASLR which aim to prevent memory disclosure attacks which in turn help in attacks like ROP.

** ROP is Still Dangerous: Breaking Modern Defenses

This paper claims to bypass previously proposed solutions against ROP attacks, specifically kBouncer and ROPecker by proposing techniques to bypass these protections. They present three new attack models that can bypass most of the proposed defenses against ROP, including CFI techniques.

** Stitching the Gadgets: On the Ineffectiveness of Coarse-Grained Control-Flow Integrity Protection

Yet another paper that explores the in-effectiveness of the CFI techniques proposed in the past. They analyze the security of all previously proposed coarse-grained CFI techniques. Also, they present new attack primitives that can effectively bypass all the protection mechanism against ROP by slightly modifying the existing attacks.

** Size Does Matter: Why Using Gadget-Chain Length to Prevent Code-Reuse Attacks is Hard

Some defenses for ROP actually make assumptions about the length of the gadget chains that are practically usable to deploy a successful attack. This paper means to analyze on that assumption trying to prove that finding out a reasonable threshold for that length is a difficult problem and can often result either in bypass of large false positives if the length is over or under estimated.

** Oxymoron: Making Fine-Grained Memory Randomization Practical by Allowing Code Sharing

This paper talks about the drawbacks of removing code-sharing by using shared libraries as a preventive measure for ROP attacks. Further, they propose a per-process level memory randomization technique which is safe against JIT-ROP attacks while allowing shared libraries.

** Dynamic Hooks: Hiding Control Flow Changes within Non-Control Data

This paper builds upon the existing attacks which modify the control flow of a program by modifying the control-data , which can be easily detected by mechanisms that looks for changes in such hooks. They instead propose a technique which modifies the transient-data and it gets invoked only a run-time bypassing most of the protection techniques proposed against the control-data attacks.

** ret2dir: Rethinking Kernel Isolation

This is a novel new technique called return-to-direct-mapped memory which is a variant of the return-to-libc or other ROP style attacks. In this paper, they bypass all the hardware enforced protection mechanism liek PXN, SMEP, SMAP introduced in the recent past. They leverage the direct-mapped memory in Linux kernel which maps the entire userspace into the kernel space and uses some techniques to determine the address of the shell code added in the userspace to perform ROP in kernel space.

** Enforcing Forward-Edge Control-Flow Integrity in GCC & LLVM

This paper improves the CFI techniques proposed in the past with impractical assumptions and heuristic techniques which can only work in research environments. They present a fine-grained CFI techniques for modern GCC and LLVM compilers and claim to have significant reduction in overheads caused by previous CFI techniques and are thus more practical.

** Dowsing for Overflows: A Guided Fuzzer to Find Buffer Boundary Violations

This paper presents a fuzzing mechanism to find buffer overflow vulnerabilities in programs. They utilize static analysis of the source code and taint analysis to determine which parts of the code are likely candidates to host buffer overflow violations. They however focus only the loops which accesses array as the potential points for buffer overflow in the system.

** Control Flow Integrity for COTS Binaries

This paper presents a new technique to apply CFI to binaries which do not have any debugging information in them, which most of the previous CFI techniques in the past depend on. They claim to be the first one to work on a large shared binary like libc and implement their CFI technique on it.

** Transparent ROP Exploit Mitigation Using Indirect Branch Tracing

This paper uses indirect branch tracing techniques to prevent ROP attacks in Windows. Based on the observation that ROP attacks have a pattern of jumps and calls in a series, which is not common in programs, they use hardware indirect branch tracking technique to determine if the code running is a malicious ROP attack.

** Seeing Through The Same Lens: Introspecting Guest Address Space At Native Speed

This is an interesting paper which aims to solve the problem of VMI by allowing memory access at native speeds. VMI techniques are usually slow because they tend to do memory translations in software as opposed to the VMs which actually use the MMU for translation. Allowing guest memory access at native speeds means the VMI techniques can perform much better now.

** Oscar: A Practical Page-Permissions-Based Scheme for Thwarting Dangling Pointers

This paper argues for the old technique to prevent dangling pointers by placing them on page boundaries and managing their permissions. They claim that recent techniques with canaries and guard pages are less efficient and secure when compares to the old techniques. Their mechanism doesn't require the source code the programs, and also hammers down previous known limitations of this scheme.

** Towards Efficient Heap Overflow Discovery

This paper presents a new mechanism to trace Heap overflow vulnerabilities in binary programs by analyzing heap allocation and heap access operations and performing in-depth offline analysis on the program flow graphs.

** Efficient Protection of Path-Sensitive Control Security

This paper presents yet another variation of the CFI techniques that uses runtime path-sensitive analysis to determine legitimate control transfer targets. They have implemented a execution environment that enforces runtime path-sensitive CFI by using hardware monitoring and runtime point-to analysis.

  • Interesting but unrelated

** Thwarting Memory Disclosure with Efficient Hypervisor-enforced Intra-domain Isolation

** Security by Any Other Name: On the Effectiveness of Provider Based Email Security

** DeTrust: Defeating Hardware Trust Verification with Stealthy Implicitly-Triggered Hardware Trojans

** The Last Mile: An Empirical Study of Timing Channels on seL4

** ASIST: architectural support for instruction set randomization

** PIkit: A New Kernel-Independent Processor-Interconnect Rootkit

A kernel rootkit that hides itself without attacking the kernel by using the common flaws in modern hardware often used in the public cloud data centers. ** Tracking Rootkit Footprints with a Practical Memory Analysis System

This paper presents a fast and robust forensic analysis technique that can analyze memory snapshots to find out rootkits.

** Capsicum: practical capabilities for UNIX ** Q: Exploit Hardening Made Easy


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