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

Pappas, Vasilis; Polychronakis, Michalis; Keromytis, Angelos D.

The wide adoption of non-executable page protections in recent versions of popular operating systems has given rise to attacks that employ return-oriented programming (ROP) to achieve arbitrary code execution without the injection of any code. Existing defenses against ROP exploits either require source code or symbolic debugging information, or impose a significant runtime overhead, which limits their applicability for the protection of third-party applications. In this paper we present in-place code randomization, a practical mitigation technique against ROP attacks that can be applied directly on third-party software. Our method uses various narrow-scope code transformations that can be applied statically, without changing the location of basic blocks, allowing the safe randomization of stripped binaries even with partial disassembly coverage. These transformations effectively eliminate about 10%, and probabilistically break about 80% of the useful instruction sequences found in a large set of PE files. Since no additional code is inserted, in-place code randomization does not incur any measurable runtime overhead, enabling it to be easily used in tandem with existing exploit mitigations such as address space layout randomization. Our evaluation using publicly available ROP exploits and two ROP code generation toolkits demonstrates that our technique prevents the exploitation of the tested vulnerable Windows 7 applications, including Adobe Reader, as well as the automated construction of alternative ROP payloads that aim to circumvent in-place code randomization using solely any remaining unaffected instruction sequences.



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Proceedings: 2012 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy: S&P 2012: 21-23 May 2012, San Francisco, California, USA

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Academic Units
Computer Science
Published Here
July 10, 2012