Enabling Client-Side Crash-Resistance to Overcome Diversification and Information Hiding

Robert Gawlik, Benjamin Kollenda, Philipp Koppe, Behrad Garmany, Thorsten Holz

An­nual Net­work & Di­stri­bu­ted Sys­tem Se­cu­ri­ty Sym­po­si­um (NDSS), San Diego, Fe­bru­ary 2016


It is a well-known issue that attack primitives which exploit memory corruption vulnerabilities can abuse the ability of processes to automatically restart upon termination. For example, network services like FTP and HTTP servers are typically restarted in case a crash happens and this can be used to defeat Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR). Furthermore, recently several techniques evolved that enable complete process memory scanning or code-reuse attacks against diversified and unknown binaries based on automated restarts of server applications. Until now, it is believed that client applications are immune against exploit primitives utilizing crashes. Due to their hard crash policy, such applications do not restart after memory corruption faults, making it impossible to touch memory more than once with wrong permissions.

In this paper, we show that certain client application can actually survive crashes and are able to tolerate faults, which are normally critical and force program termination. To this end, we introduce a crash-resistance primitive and develop a novel memory scanning method with memory oracles without the need for control-flow hijacking. We show the practicability of our methods for 32-bit Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1, and Mozilla Firefox 64-bit (Windows 8.1 and Linux 3.17.1). Furthermore, we demonstrate the advantages an attacker gains to overcome recent code-reuse defenses. Latest advances propose fine-grained re-randomization of the address space and code layout, or hide sensitive information such as code pointers to thwart tampering or misuse. We show that these defenses need improvements since crash-resistance weakens their security assumptions. To this end, we introduce the concept of Crash-Resistant Oriented Programming (CROP). We believe that our results and the implications of memory oracles will contribute to future research on defensive schemes against code-reuse attacks.


tags: attack, software security