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ILR: Where'd My Gadgets Go?

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5 Author(s)
Hiser, J. ; Dept. of Comput. Sci., Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA ; Nguyen-Tuong, A. ; Co, M. ; Hall, M.
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Through randomization of the memory space and the confinement of code to non-data pages, computer security researchers have made a wide range of attacks against program binaries more difficult. However, attacks have evolved to exploit weaknesses in these defenses. To thwart these attacks, we introduce a novel technique called Instruction Location Randomization (ILR). Conceptually, ILR randomizes the location of every instruction in a program, thwarting an attacker's ability to re-use program functionality (e.g., arc-injection attacks and return-oriented programming attacks). ILR operates on arbitrary executable programs, requires no compiler support, and requires no user interaction. Thus, it can be automatically applied post-deployment, allowing easy and frequent re-randomization. Our preliminary prototype, working on 32-bit x86 Linux ELF binaries, provides a high degree of entropy. Individual instructions are randomly placed within a 31-bit address space. Thus, attacks that rely on a priori knowledge of the location of code or derandomization are not feasible. We demonstrated ILR's defensive capabilities by defeating attacks against programs with vulnerabilities, including Adobe's PDF viewer, acroread, which had an in-the-wild vulnerability. Additionally, using an industry-standard CPU performance benchmark suite, we compared the run time of prototype ILR-protected executables to that of native executables. The average run-time overhead of ILR was 13% with more than half the programs having effectively no overhead (15 out of 29), indicating that ILR is a realistic and cost-effective mitigation technique.

Published in:

Security and Privacy (SP), 2012 IEEE Symposium on

Date of Conference:

20-23 May 2012