Type of Publication: Research report
Stitching the Gadgets: On the Ineffectiveness of Coarse-Grained Control-Flow Integrity Protection
- Davi, Lucas; Lehmann, Daniel; Sadeghi, Ahmad-Reza; Monrose, Fabian
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Return-oriented programming (ROP) offers a robust attack technique that has, not surprisingly, been extensively used to exploit bugs in modern software programs (e.g., web browsers and PDF readers). ROP attacks require no code injection, and have already been shown to be powerful enough to bypass fine-grained memory randomization (ASLR) defenses. To counter this ingenious attack strategy, several proposals for enforcement of (coarse-grained) control-flow integrity (CFI) have emerged. The key argument put forth by these works is that coarse-grained CFI policies are sufficient to prevent ROP attacks. As this reasoning has gained traction, ideas put forth in these proposals have even been incorporated into coarse-grained CFI defenses in widely adopted tools (e.g., Microsoft’s EMET framework).
In this paper, we provide the first comprehensive security analysis of various CFI solutions (covering kBouncer, ROPecker, CFI for COTS binaries, ROPGuard, and Microsoft EMET 4.1). A key contribution is in demonstrating that these techniques can be effectively undermined, even under weak adversarial assumptions. More specifically, we show that with bare minimum assumptions, turing-complete and real-world ROP attacks can still be launched even when the strictest of enforcement policies is in use. To do so, we introduce several new ROP attack primitives, and demonstrate the practicality of our approach by transforming existing real-world exploits into more stealthy attacks that bypass coarse-grained CFI defenses.