Preventing Buffer Overflows with Binary Rewriting
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Buffer overflows are the single largest cause of security attacks in recent times. Attacks based on this vulnerability have been the subject of extensive research and a significant number of defenses have been proposed for dealing with attacks of this nature. However, despite this extensive research, buffer overflows continue to be exploited due to the fact that many defenses proposed in prior research provide only partial coverage and attackers have adopted to exploit problems that are not well defended. The fact that many legacy binaries are still deployed in production environments also contributes to the success of buffer overflow attacks since most, if not all, buffer overflow defenses are source level defenses which require an application to be re-compiled. For many legacy applications, this may not be possible since the source code may no longer be available. In this thesis, we present an implementation of a defense mechanism for defending against various attack forms due to buffer overflows using binary rewriting. We study various attacks that happen in the real world and present techniques that can be employed within a binary rewriter to protect a binary from these attacks. Binary rewriting is a nascent field and little research has been done regarding the applications of binary rewriting. In particular, there is great potential for applications of binary rewriting in software security. With a binary rewriter, a vulnerable application can be immediately secured without the need for access to it's source code which allows legacy binaries to be secured. Also, numerous attacks on application software assume that application binaries are laid out in certain ways or have certain characteristics. Our defense scheme implemented using binary rewriting technology can prevent many of these attacks. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our scheme in preventing many different attack forms based on buffer overflows on both synthetic benchmarks and real-world attacks.