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Targeting the operating system kernel, the core of trust in a system, kernel rootkits are able to compromise the entire system, placing it under malicious control, while eluding detection efforts. Within the realm of kernel rootkits, dynamic data rootkits are particularly elusive due to the fact that they attack only data targets. Dynamic data rootkits avoid code injection and instead use existing kernel code to manipulate kernel data. Because they do not execute any new code, they are able to complete their attacks without violating kernel code integrity. We propose a prevention solution that blocks dynamic data kernel rootkit attacks by monitoring kernel memory access using virtual machine monitor (VMM) policies. Although the VMM is an external monitor, our system preemptively detects changes to monitored kernel data states and enables fine-grained inspection of memory accesses on dynamically changing kernel data. In addition, readable and writable kernel data can be protected by exposing the illegal use of existing code by dynamic data kernel rootkits. We have implemented a prototype of our system using the QEMU VMM. Our experiments show that it successfully defeats synthesized dynamic data kernel rootkits in real-time, demonstrating its effectiveness and practicality.
Date of Conference: 16-19 March 2009