Visible to the public CREDAL: Towards Locating a Memory Corruption Vulnerability with Your Core Dump

TitleCREDAL: Towards Locating a Memory Corruption Vulnerability with Your Core Dump
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsXu, Jun, Mu, Dongliang, Chen, Ping, Xing, Xinyu, Wang, Pei, Liu, Peng
Conference NameProceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security
Conference LocationNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number978-1-4503-4139-4
Keywordscore dump, Human Behavior, memory corruption, Metrics, multiple fault diagnosis, pubcrawl, Resiliency, vulnerability analysis

After a program has crashed and terminated abnormally, it typically leaves behind a snapshot of its crashing state in the form of a core dump. While a core dump carries a large amount of information, which has long been used for software debugging, it barely serves as informative debugging aids in locating software faults, particularly memory corruption vulnerabilities. A memory corruption vulnerability is a special type of software faults that an attacker can exploit to manipulate the content at a certain memory. As such, a core dump may contain a certain amount of corrupted data, which increases the difficulty in identifying useful debugging information (e.g. , a crash point and stack traces). Without a proper mechanism to deal with this problem, a core dump can be practically useless for software failure diagnosis. In this work, we develop CREDAL, an automatic tool that employs the source code of a crashing program to enhance core dump analysis and turns a core dump to an informative aid in tracking down memory corruption vulnerabilities. Specifically, CREDAL systematically analyzes a core dump potentially corrupted and identifies the crash point and stack frames. For a core dump carrying corrupted data, it goes beyond the crash point and stack trace. In particular, CREDAL further pinpoints the variables holding corrupted data using the source code of the crashing program along with the stack frames. To assist software developers (or security analysts) in tracking down a memory corruption vulnerability, CREDAL also performs analysis and highlights the code fragments corresponding to data corruption. To demonstrate the utility of CREDAL, we use it to analyze 80 crashes corresponding to 73 memory corruption vulnerabilities archived in Offensive Security Exploit Database. We show that, CREDAL can accurately pinpoint the crash point and (fully or partially) restore a stack trace even though a crashing program stack carries corrupted data. In addition, we demonstrate CREDAL can potentially reduce the manual effort of finding the code fragment that is likely to contain memory corruption vulnerabilities.

Citation Keyxu_credal:_2016