Identifying Code Injection and Reuse Payloads In Memory Error Exploits Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Snow, Kevin
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Computer Science
  • Today's most widely exploited applications are the web browsers and document readers we use every day. The immediate goal of these attacks is to compromise target systems by executing a snippet of malicious code in the context of the exploited application. Technical tactics used to achieve this can be classified as either code injection - wherein malicious instructions are directly injected into the vulnerable program - or code reuse, where bits of existing program code are pieced together to form malicious logic. In this thesis, I present a new code reuse strategy that bypasses existing and up-and-coming mitigations, and two methods for detecting attacks by identifying the presence of code injection or reuse payloads. Fine-grained address space layout randomization efficiently scrambles program code, limiting one's ability to predict the location of useful instructions to construct a code reuse payload. To expose the inadequacy of this exploit mitigation, a technique for "just-in-time" exploitation is developed. This new technique maps memory on-the-fly and compiles a code reuse payload at runtime to ensure it works in a randomized application. The attack also works in face of all other widely deployed mitigations, as demonstrated with a proof-of-concept attack against Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8. This motivates the need for detection of such exploits rather than solely relying on prevention. Two new techniques are presented for detecting attacks by identifying the presence of a payload. Code reuse payloads are identified by first taking a memory snapshot of the target application, then statically profiling the memory for chains of code pointers that reuse code to implement malicious logic. Code injection payloads are identified with runtime heuristics by leveraging hardware virtualization for efficient sandboxed execution of all buffers in memory. Employing both detection methods together to scan program memory takes about a second and produces negligible false positives and false negatives provided that the given exploit is functional and triggered in the target application version. Compared to other strategies, such as the use of signatures, this approach requires relatively little effort spent on maintenance over time and is capable of detecting never before seen attacks. Moving forward, one could use these contributions to form the basis of a unique and effective network intrusion detection system (NIDS) to augment existing systems.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Provos, Niels
  • Bailey, Michael
  • Monrose, Fabian
  • Singh, Montek
  • Smith, Don
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • This item is restricted from public view for 2 years after publication.

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