PUMM: Preventing Use-After-Free Using Execution Unit Partitioning


Carter Yagemann, The Ohio State University; Simon P. Chung, Brendan Saltaformaggio, and Wenke Lee, Georgia Institute of Technology


Critical software is written in memory unsafe languages that are vulnerable to use-after-free and double free bugs. This has led to proposals to secure memory allocators by strategically deferring memory reallocations long enough to make such bugs unexploitable. Unfortunately, existing solutions suffer from high runtime and memory overheads. Seeking a better solution, we propose to profile programs to identify units of code that correspond to the handling of individual tasks. With the intuition that little to no data should flow between separate tasks at runtime, reallocation of memory freed by the currently executing unit is deferred until after its completion; just long enough to prevent use-after-free exploitation.

To demonstrate the efficacy of our design, we implement a prototype for Linux, PUMM, which consists of an offline profiler and an online enforcer that transparently wraps standard libraries to protect C/C++ binaries. In our evaluation of 40 real-world and 3,000 synthetic vulnerabilities across 26 programs, including complex multi-threaded cases like the Chakra JavaScript engine, PUMM successfully thwarts all real-world exploits, and only allows 4 synthetic exploits, while reducing memory overhead by 52.0% over prior work and incurring an average runtime overhead of 2.04%.

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@inproceedings {285363,
author = {Carter Yagemann and Simon P. Chung and Brendan Saltaformaggio and Wenke Lee},
title = {{PUMM}: Preventing {Use-After-Free} Using Execution Unit Partitioning},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {823--840},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity23/presentation/yagemann},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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