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Project for the Poking Holes in Information Hiding paper
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Poking holes

This is the source code for the EAP/PAP attacks described in the USENIX Security'16 paper Poking Holes in Information Hiding.


ASLR is no longer a strong defense in itself, but it still serves as a foundation for sophisticated defenses that use randomization for pseudo-isolation. Crucially, these defenses hide sensitive information (such as shadow stacks and safe regions) at a random position in a very large address space. Previous attacks on randomization-based information hiding rely on complicated side channels and/or probing of the mapped memory regions. Assuming no weaknesses exist in the implementation of hidden regions, the attacks typically lead to many crashes or other visible side-effects. For this reason, many researchers still consider the pseudo-isolation offered by ASLR sufficiently strong in practice.

We introduce powerful new primitives to show that this faith in ASLR-based information hiding is misplaced, and that attackers can break ASLR and find hidden regions on 32 bit and 64 bit Linux systems quickly with very few malicious inputs. Rather than building on memory accesses that probe the allocated memory areas, we determine the sizes of the unallocated holes in the address space by repeatedly allocating large chunks of memory. Given the sizes, an attacker can infer the location of the hidden region with few or no side-effects. We show that allocation oracles are pervasive and evaluate our primitives on real-world server applications.

What's included

The code implements the attacks in two executables:

  • dissect: implements the binary search EAP attack (plus the associated PAP-based hole plugging)
  • monparnes: implements the state-forking PAP-only attack described in the appendix of the paper

Also included

  • maps: utility program to display gaps and mapped regions based on the contents of /proc/$pid/maps
  • stub: generic allocation stub. It implements a simple protocol and can be used either interactively, for experimentation, or in batch mode

Implementation details

The OCaml code talks to the memory allocation stub (i.e. the "remote" code which implements the stub protocol) via the Live_stub module. However, while developing the PAP-only attack, it was useful to implement a shadow stub too, which only emulates the kernel behavior (hence is much faster) and allows for replaying execution (to test bugfixes). Unfortunately, the shadow stub implementation had to be set aside towards the end of this project.

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