Mitigating code-reuse attacks with control-flow locking

Conference Paper

Code-reuse attacks are software exploits in which an attacker directs control flow through existing code with a malicious result. One such technique, return-oriented programming, is based on"gadgets" (short pre-existing sequences of code ending in a ret instruction) being executed in arbitrary order as a result of a stack corruption exploit. Many existing codereuse defenses have relied upon a particular attribute of the attack in question (e.g., the frequency of ret instructions in a return-oriented attack), which leads to an incomplete protection, while a smaller number of efforts in protecting all exploitable control flow transfers suffer from limited deployability due to high performance overhead. In this paper, we present a novel cost-effective defense technique called control flow locking, which allows for effective enforcement of control flow integrity with a small performance overhead. Specifically, instead of immediately determining whether a control flow violation happens before the control flow transfer takes place, control flow locking lazily detects the violation after the transfer. To still restrict attackers' capability, our scheme guarantees that the deviation of the normal control flow graph will only occur at most once. Further, our scheme ensures that this deviation cannot be used to craft a malicious system call, which denies any potential gains an attacker might obtain from what is permitted in the threat model. We have developed a proof-of-concept prototype in Linux and our evaluation demonstrates desirable effectiveness and competitive performance overhead with existing techniques. In several benchmarks, our scheme is able to achieve significant gains. Copyright 2011 ACM.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bletsch, T; Jiang, X; Freeh, V

Published Date

  • December 1, 2011

Published In

  • Acm International Conference Proceeding Series

Start / End Page

  • 353 - 362

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781450306720

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1145/2076732.2076783

Citation Source

  • Scopus