2017 Symposium Posters

Posters > 2017

HexVASAN: A Variadic Function Sanitizer


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Primary Investigator:
Mathias Payer

Project Members
Priyam Biswas
Abstract
Programming languages such as C and C++ support variadic functions, i.e., functions that accept a variable number of arguments (e.g. printf). While variadic functions are flexible, they are inherently not type-safe. In fact, the semantics and parameters of variadic functions are defined implicitly by their implementation. It is left to the programmer to ensure that the caller and callee follow this implicit specification, without the help of a static type checker. An adversary can take advantage of a mismatch between the argument types used by the caller of a variadic function and the types expected by the callee to violate the language semantics and to tamper with memory. Format string attacks are the most popular example of such a mismatch. Indirect function calls can be exploited by an adversary to divert execution through illegal paths. Control Flow Integrity (CFI) restricts call targets according to the function prototype which, for variadic functions, does not include all the actual parameters. However, as shown by our case study, current CFI implementations are mainly limited to non-variadic functions and fail to address this potential attack vector. Defending against such an attack requires a stateful dynamic check. We present HexVASAN, a compiler based sanitizer to effectively type-check and thus prevent any attack via variadic functions (when called directly or indirectly). The key idea is to record metadata at the call site and verify parameters and their types at the callee whenever they are used at runtime. Our evaluation shows that HexVASAN is practically deployable as the measured overhead is negligible 0.45%.

Our annual information security symposium will take place on April 3rd and 4th, 2018.
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN