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Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security

The Application of Deception to Software Security Patching


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Jeffrey K. Avery

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CERIAS TR 2017-3

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Deception has been used for thousands of years to influence thoughts. Comparatively, deception has been used in computing since the 1970s. Its application to security has been documented in a variety of studies and products on the market, but continues to evolve with new research and tools. There has been limited research regarding the application of deception to software patching in non-real time systems. Developers and engineers test programs and applications before deployment, but they cannot account for every flaw that may occur during the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). Thus, throughout an application's lifetime, patches must be developed and distributed to improve appearance, security, and/or performance. Given a software security patch, an attacker can find the exact line(s) of vulnerable code in unpatched versions and develop an exploit without meticulously reviewing source code, thus lightening the workload to develop an attack. Applying deceptive techniques to software security patches as part of the defensive strategy can increase the workload necessary to use patches to develop exploits. Introducing deception into security patch development makes attackers' jobs more difficult by casting doubt on the validity of the data they receive from their exploits. Software security updates that use deception to influence attackers' decision making and exploit generation are called deceptive patches. Deceptive patching techniques could include inserting fake patches, making real patches confusing, and responding falsely to requests as if the vulnerability still exists. These could increase attackers' time spent attempting to discover, exploit and validate vulnerabilities and provide defenders information about attackers' habits and targets. This dissertation presents models, implementations, and analysis of deceptive patches to show the impact of deception on code analysis and an attacker's exploit generation process. Our implementation shows that deceptive patches do increase the workload necessary to analyze programs. The analysis of the generated models show that deceptive patches inhibit various phases of attacker's exploit generation process. Thus, we show that it is feasible to introduce deception into the software patching lifecycle to influence attacker decision making.




2017 – 8 – 3

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