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Mishra, Shachee, Polychronakis, Michalis.  2018.  Shredder: Breaking Exploits Through API Specialization. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference. :1-16.

Code reuse attacks have been a threat to software security since the introduction of non-executable memory protections. Despite significant advances in various types of additional defenses, such as control flow integrity (CFI) and leakage-resilient code randomization, recent code reuse attacks have demonstrated that these defenses are often not enough to prevent successful exploitation. Sophisticated exploits can reuse code comprising larger code fragments that conform to the enforced CFI policy and which are not affected by randomization. As a step towards improving our defenses against code reuse attacks, in this paper we present Shredder, a defense-in-depth exploit mitigation tool for the protection of closed-source applications. In a preprocessing phase, Shredder statically analyzes a given application to pinpoint the call sites of potentially useful (to attackers) system API functions, and uses backwards data flow analysis to derive their expected argument values and generate whitelisting policies in a best-effort way. At runtime, using library interposition, Shredder exposes to the protected application only specialized versions of these critical API functions, and blocks any invocation that violates the enforced policy. We have experimentally evaluated our prototype implementation for Windows programs using a large set of 251 shellcode and 30 code reuse samples, and show that it improves significantly upon code stripping, a state-of-the-art code surface reduction technique, by blocking a larger number of malicious payloads with negligible runtime overhead.

Mishra, Shachee, Polychronakis, Michalis.  2020.  Saffire: Context-sensitive Function Specialization against Code Reuse Attacks. 2020 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy (EuroS P). :17–33.
The sophistication and complexity of recent exploitation techniques, which rely on memory disclosure and whole-function reuse to bypass address space layout randomization and control flow integrity, is indicative of the effect that the combination of exploit mitigations has in challenging the construction of reliable exploits. In addition to software diversification and control flow enforcement, recent efforts have focused on the complementary approach of code and API specialization to restrict further the critical operations that an attacker can perform as part of a code reuse exploit. In this paper we propose Saffire, a compiler-level defense against code reuse attacks. For each calling context of a critical function, Saffire creates a specialized and hardened replica of the function with a restricted interface that can accommodate only that particular invocation. This is achieved by applying staticargumentbinding, to eliminate arguments with static values and concretize them within the function body, and dynamicargumentbinding, which applies a narrow-scope form of data flow integrity to restrict the acceptable values of arguments that cannot be statically derived. We have implemented Saffire on top of LLVM, and applied it to a set of 11 applications, including Nginx, Firefox, and Chrome. The results of our experimental evaluation with a set of 17 real-world ROP exploits and three whole-function reuse exploits demonstrate the effectiveness of Saffire in preventing these attacks while incurring a negligible runtime overhead.