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14th USENIX Security Symposium — Abstract

Pp. 145–160 of the Proceedings

Where's the FEEB? The Effectiveness of Instruction Set Randomization

Ana Nora Sovarel, David Evans, Nathanael Paul, University of Virginia, Department of Computer Science


Instruction Set Randomization (ISR) has been proposed as a promising defense against code injection attacks. It defuses all standard code injection attacks since the attacker does not know the instruction set of the target machine. A motivated attacker, however, may be able to circumvent ISR by determining the randomization key. In this paper, we investigate the possibility of a remote attacker successfully ascertaining an ISR key using an incremental attack. We introduce a strategy for attacking ISR-protected servers, develop and analyze two attack variations, and present a technique for packaging a worm with a miniature virtual machine that reduces the number of key bytes an attacker must acquire to 100. Our attacks can break enough key bytes to infect an ISR-protected server in about six minutes. Our results provide insights into properties necessary for ISR implementations to be secure.
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