μSBS: Static Binary Sanitization of Bare-metal Embedded Devices for Fault Observability

Authors: 

Majid Salehi and Danny Hughes, imec-Distrinet, KU Leuven; Bruno Crispo, imec-Distrinet, KU Leuven, and Trento University, Italy

Abstract: 

A large portion of the already deployed Internet of Things (IoT) devices are bare-metal. In a bare-metal device, the firmware executes directly on the hardware with no intermediary OS. While bare-metal devices increase efficiency and flexibility, they are also subject to memory corruption vulnerabilities that are regularly uncovered. Fuzzing is an effective and popular software testing method to discover vulnerabilities. The effectiveness of fuzzing approaches relies on the fact that memory corruption faults, by violating existing security mechanisms such as MMU, are observable, thus relatively easy to debug. Unfortunately, bare-metal devices lack such security mechanisms. Consequently, fuzzing approaches encounter silent memory corruptions with no visible effects making debugging extremely difficult. This paper tackles this problem by proposing $\mu$SBS, a novel approach that, by statically instrumenting the binaries, makes memory corruptions observable. In contrast to prior work, $\mu$SBS does not need to reverse engineer the firmware. The approach is practical as it does not require a modified compiler and can perform policy-based instrumentation of firmware without access to source code. Evaluation of $\mu$SBS shows that it reduces security analyst effort, while discovering the same set of memory error types as prior work.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {259733,
author = {Majid Salehi and Danny Hughes and Bruno Crispo},
title = {μSBS: Static Binary Sanitization of Bare-metal Embedded Devices for Fault Observability},
booktitle = {23rd International Symposium on Research in Attacks, Intrusions and Defenses ({RAID} 2020)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-18-2},
address = {San Sebastian},
pages = {381--395},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/raid2020/presentation/salehi},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = oct,
}