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USENIX, The Advanced Computing Systems Association

15th USENIX Security Symposium Abstract

Pp. 121–136 of the Proceedings

Taint-Enhanced Policy Enforcement: A Practical Approach to Defeat a Wide Range of Attacks

Wei Xu, Sandeep Bhatkar, and R. Sekar, Stony Brook University


Policy-based confinement, employed in SELinux and specification-based intrusion detection systems, is a popular approach for defending against exploitation of vulnerabilities in benign software. Conventional access control policies employed in these approaches are effective in detecting privilege escalation attacks. However, they are unable to detect attacks that "hijack" legitimate access privileges granted to a program, e.g., an attack that subverts an FTP server to download the password file. (Note that an FTP server would normally need to access the password file for performing user authentication.) Some of the common attack types reported today, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting, involve such subversion of legitimate access privileges. In this paper, we present a new approach to strengthen policy enforcement by augmenting security policies with information about the trustworthiness of data used in securitysensitive operations. We evaluated this technique using 9 available exploits involving several popular software packages containing the above types of vulnerabilities. Our technique sucessfully defeated these exploits.
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Last changed: 20 Sept. 2006 ch