BoKASAN: Binary-only Kernel Address Sanitizer for Effective Kernel Fuzzing


Mingi Cho, Dohyeon An, Hoyong Jin, and Taekyoung Kwon, Yonsei University


Kernel Address Sanitizer (KASAN), an invaluable tool for finding use-after-free and out-of-bounds bugs in the Linux kernel, needs the kernel source for compile-time instrumentation. To apply KASAN to closed-source systems, we should develop a binary-only KASAN, which is challenging. A technique that uses binary rewriting and processor support to run KASAN for binary modules needs a KASAN-applied kernel, thereby still the kernel source. Dynamic instrumentation offers an alternative way to it but greatly increases the performance overhead, rendering the kernel fuzzing impractical.

To address these problems, we present the first practical, binary-only KASAN named BoKASAN, which conducts address sanitization through dynamic instrumentation for the entire kernel binaries efficiently. Our key idea is selective sanitization, which identifies target processes to sanitize and hooks the page fault mechanism for significantly reducing the performance overhead of dynamic instrumentation. Our key insight is that the kernel bugs are most relevant to the processes created by a fuzzer. Thus, BoKASAN deliberately sanitizes the target memory regions related to these processes and leaves the remains unsanitized for effective kernel fuzzing.

Our evaluation results show that BoKASAN is practical on closed-source systems, achieving the compiler-level performance of KASAN even on binary-only kernels and modules. Compared to KASAN on the Linux kernel, BoKASAN detected slightly more bugs in the Janus dataset and slightly fewer bugs in the Syzkaller/SyzVegas dataset; and BoKASAN found the same number of unique bugs in the 5-day fuzzing and executed the similar number of basic blocks. For binary modules on the Windows kernel and the Linux kernel, resp., BoKASAN was effective in finding bugs. An ablation result shows that selective sanitization affected these outcomes.

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@inproceedings {287286,
author = {Mingi Cho and Dohyeon An and Hoyong Jin and Taekyoung Kwon},
title = {{BoKASAN}: Binary-only Kernel Address Sanitizer for Effective Kernel Fuzzing},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {4985--5002},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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