Tightly Seal Your Sensitive Pointers with PACTight

Authors: 

Mohannad Ismail, Virginia Tech; Andrew Quach, Oregon State University; Christopher Jelesnianski, Virginia Tech; Yeongjin Jang, Oregon State University; Changwoo Min, Virginia Tech

Abstract: 

ARM is becoming more popular in desktops and data centers, opening a new realm in terms of security attacks against ARM. ARM has released Pointer Authentication, a new hardware security feature that is intended to ensure pointer integrity with cryptographic primitives.

In this paper, we utilize Pointer Authentication (PA) to build a novel scheme to completely prevent any misuse of security-sensitive pointers. We propose PACTIGHT to tightly seal these pointers. PACTIGHT utilizes a strong and unique modifier that addresses the current issues with the state-of-the-art PA defense mechanisms. We implement four defenses based on the PACTIGHT mechanism. Our security and performance evaluation results show that PACTIGHT defenses are more efficient and secure. Using real PA instructions, we evaluated PACTIGHT on 30 different applications, including NGINX web server, with an average performance overhead of 4.07% even when enforcing our strongest defense. PACTIGHT demonstrates its effectiveness and efficiency with real PA instructions on real hardware.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

BibTeX
@inproceedings {281318,
author = {Mohannad Ismail and Andrew Quach and Christopher Jelesnianski and Yeongjin Jang and Changwoo Min},
title = {Tightly Seal Your Sensitive Pointers with {PACTight}},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-31-1},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {3717--3734},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity22/presentation/ismail},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,
}

Presentation Video