Monday, December 15, 2014

Using LBR (Last Branch Record) feature to detect ret2usr (return-to-user) attack w/ MMU paging structure corruption

SMEP (Supervisor Mode Execution Prevention) is a mitigation that aims to prevent the CPU from running code from user-mode while in kernel-mode, however this post (Windows 8 Kernel Memory Protections Bypass) presents a generic technique for exploiting kernel vulnerabilities with bypassing SMEP. Unlike my previous post (Page Table Structure Corruption Attacks - How to Mitigate it?) that presented a mitigation to that attack, this post will present a solution to detect such a ret2usr attack due to MMU paging structure corruption.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New security feature - Control Flow Guard (CFG) - available in Visual Studio 2015 Preview

This blog announced that the Preview for Visual Studio 2015 includes a new, work-in-progress feature, called Control Flow Guard (CFG). 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Defending Against ret2dir Attacks (partially) with Virtualization Technology?

I was so excited when recently reading the paper (ret2dir: Rethinking Kernel Isolation) from Vasileios P. Kemerlis. This post is basically going to introduce the idea of ret2dir attack, and how to prevent such an attack with hardware virtualization technology, actually partially. 

Improve Performance for Separating Kernel and User Address Space with Process-Context Identifiers (PCIDs)

This post is not talking about any new idea, just about what I'm thinking..

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anybody knows How to Legitimately Register a PMI (PMU Performance Monitor Interrupt) Callback Handler on Windows OS?

According to IA32/Intel Software Development Manual, when some PMU (Performance Monitor Unit) counter overflows occur, or LBR (Last Branch Record)/BTS (Branch Trace Store) is near full, the processor will deliver a PMI (Performance Monitor Interrupt). In Linux Kernel implementation, the PMU (perf tool) is using NMI to deliver such a PMI interrupt, and we can directly change the kernel source to add our own PMI handler for a particular event. 

But in Windows OS, how to register a PMI handler callback in a driver without hooking the kernel IDT table? Does anybody know about it? 

Page Table Structure Corruption Attacks - How to Mitigate it?

On x86 and many other processor architectures (with MMU), page tables are critical data structures for address translations. And many hardware-based page level protection technologies in my previous post, like SMEP, XD/DEP, highly depend on correct page table settings. so what if page tables are controlled by an attacker? ...At the end of this post, I will propose an extra solution to mitigate page table structure attacks.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Implement software-based SMEP with Non-Execute (NX) bit in page tables to secure kernel/user virtual memory address space.

In my previous post, I talked about how to implement a software-based SMEP (Supervisor Mode Execution Protection) with virtualization/hypervisor for fun. In this post, I'm going to detail yet another solution to implement software-based SMEP without virtualization technology. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

DMA Attacks Against McAfee DeepSafe

Rafal Wojtczuk (from Bromium, previously Invisible Things Lab) presented DMA attacks against DeepSafe. 

Latest researching status of ROP/JOP attacks and defenses

Control Flow Hijacking, like ROP, becomes a hot topic in recent years since ever DEP(W^X enforcement) and SMEP were introduced in h/w processor. Based upon the papers that I read recently, this post just gives a brief introduction on the recent researching status (though incomplete) about control flow attacks and defenses. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Implement a software-based SMEP(Supervisor Mode Execution Protection) with Virtualization/Hypervisor Technology

As my previous post indicated, SMEP is a powerful security feature, and easy to deploy in modern commodity OS. However this feature requires H/W processor's support, for those processors that are not SMEP-capable, this post presents a software-based solution to emulate SMEP functionality with the help of Virtualization/Hypervisor technology

Saturday, November 08, 2014

What does Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX) processor technology mean to vulnerability exploits (e.g. Brute Forcing)?

Intel Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX) was introduced since from Haswell processor with adding hardware transactional memory support. It was originally design to speed up execution of multi-threaded software through lock elision. Every new technology has both good side and evil side, then how about TSX extension? What can we use it to do for vulnerability exploits and its defenses?

Using LBR (Last Branch Record) Feature to Detect IDT-Shadowing-Based Malicious IDT Hooking

Thanks to Yushi who shared a presentation (ELI: Bare-Metal Performance for I/O Virtualization) with me. In that hypervisor (ELI), it innovates an idea of gust IDT shadow (or IDT virtualization) design for some specific usage models. I'm going to talk a little bit about this idea.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Monitor Trap Flag (MTF) Usage in EPT-based Guest Physical Memory Monitoring

Monitor Trap Flag (MTF) is a flag specifically designed for single-stepping in x86/Intel hardware virtualization VT-x technology. When MTF is set, the guest will trigger a VM Exit after executing each instruction (need to consider NMI or other interrupt delivery boundary). This paper presents an idea to use MTF for memory write allowing when monitoring modification to guest virtual-to-physical mapping (page table entries) tables. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

BitVisor - A Thin Hypervisor Built for Enforcing I/O Device Security - Storage (USB/DISK) Encryption or File Access Monitoring

This post is wrote to share an idea of the paper (BitVisor: A Thin Hypervisor for Enforcing I/O Device Security) that I read recently. It innovates a hypervisor-based solution for enforcing storage/disk encryption of ATA devices.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

XEN PVH Virtualization Mode - "What Color Is Your Xen?"

In my previous post Why smaller code size with XEN on ARM?, one of reasons I explained is that XEN on x86 must support different guest working modes with backward compatibility due to historical x86 virtualization technology limitations (e.g. in the first x86 VT-x version, no hardware-assisted Paging support). This post just shares some useful information/links on a new XEN virtualization mode (PVH) I read recently. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Unikernels: Library Operating Systems for the Cloud (OSv)

Unlike a general-purpose, commercial operating system (like Windows, Ubuntu), OSv ( from cloudius-systems) is a single-purpose operating system. It is also kind of library operating system designed for the cloud that running on top of different hypervisors, e.g. XEN, KVM, VMware. So what does OSv like look? 

Problems arises when supporting EFI + GRUB2 + Xen with Multiboot2 boot specification

Previously I wrote a post to discuss the limitations for Multiboot boot specification, today I saw that XEN hypervisor also has the similar problems. 

Debugging Bug Check (BSOD) 0x101 CLOCK_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT in a Hypervisor/VMM Environment

I'm planning to write a post for debugging  Bug Check 0x101 issue (CLOCK_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT) in Windows system. but I happened to find this blog Debugging a CLOCK_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT Bugcheck from MSFT debugger team which explaned it in greater details. However, the issue we met is slightly different from what MSFT team was debugging. We are working in virtualization/hypervisor environment, and Windows (7+) is running as a primary Guest OS.  

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Security OS Design (cont.): Write Protection for Linux Kernel critical data structures (GDT, IDT, syscall table, task_strcture, mm_struct,...)

To be continued for previous post, let me review what must be changed in Linux kernel in order to prevent buffer overrun/overflow attacks from modifying the critical kernel data structures, like GDT, IDT, task_struct, mm_struct, etc.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

An OS Kernel Bug in Windows 8.1 32-bit OS When Handling Task Switch Events

I'm not sure if this kernel bug that I reported in last year has been fixed in the latest Win8.1 32bit system. The bug is : any NMI (Non-Maskable Interrupt) can cause system crash/BSOD with BugCheck 7F, {7, *, *, *}. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Security OS Kernel Design: an idea to prevent malicious software overwriting the critical system kernel data structures

Recently, when reading this paper "HyperSafe - A Lightweight Approach to Provide Lifetime Hypervisor Control-Flow Integrity", an idea just comes out from my mind: using write protection (CR0.WP) and read-only (RO) page attribute to prevent the critical kernel data structures being overwritten by malicious software through buffer (stack, heap) overflow in an exploitable kernel module.

Control Flow Integrity (CFI)

Traditionally, arbitrary malicious code execution (e.g. caused by buffer overflow, stack or heap manipulation) is one of major threats in computer security. 

But due to the fact that there are many hardware-enforced security features are introduced in recent processors, for example in my previous post, the attackers are starting to explore the other advanced techniques.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Enable UEFI Firmware BIOS and Debug Xen/EFI on VMware Player

Since VMware product (e.g. Player) now supports nested virtualization VT-x/VMX , recently I wanted to use this feature to debug XEN w/ EFI on top of VMware Player. This post details some best practices, and some issues I encountered. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is this a good security design in Linux kernel? -- connections between thread_info and kernel stack

In Linux kernel, thread_info is a small CPU-specific data structure that stores some low-level task data for corresponding process, it also has a pointer to task_struct, which is a processor-independent process control block data structure, e.g. scheduling, virtual memory structures.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Run-time Non-invasive Approach to Defending against ROP and JOP Attacks

<For some reason, I cannot public it. But I'm planning to open it at some time later >

This blog presents an idea to defend against both ROP (Return-oriented Programming) and JOP (Jump-oriented Programming) attacks ...

It is a low-overhead, real-time, and non-invasive solution with no need target exploit binary/source change. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why smaller code size with XEN on ARM?

This white paper (Xen ARM with Virtualization Extensions whitepaperindicates that "Xen on ARM is 1/6 of the code size of x86_64 Xen, while still providing a similar level of features". what does this mean? Does this mean that Xen/ARM is better than Xen/x86? We cannot simply just make this conclusion, but anyway smaller code size means smaller TCB, which can reduce security risks (e.g. security vulnerabilities). 

ARM TrustZone (Security Extension) and Virtualization Extension vs x86 Virtualization Technology

A typical virtualization system on both x86 and ARM includes three major parts:
  • CPU virtualization
  • Memory virtualization, and 
  • I/O virtualization (device, interrupt virtualization). 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Monitor/Trap Software Interrupt INT 80h (System Call) with x86/Intel Virtualization Technology

In an unix-like system, before syscall/sysret and/or sysenter/sysexit instructions were introduced by x86/Intel processors, software interrupt "INT 80h" was used as system call interface. Unlike my previous post, this one is going to talk about how to monitor this old type system call.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kernel Information Leak with Unprivileged Instructions (SIDT, SGDT) on x86 - WHY ?

In computer security, information leaking is one of threats to software security. For example, the memory address of kernel critical resource should not be visible to user mode. Address space layout randomization (ASLR) is just one of techniques to prevent an attacker from reliably getting a particular exploited function in memory. 

However, I'm just very curious about why x86 processor leaks kernel data structures by some unprivileged instructions. Is this a bad CPU design?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Exploit NULL pointer dereference bug (ARM and x86)

A NULL pointer dereference occurs when a pointer with the value of 0 (NULL) is assumed to be a valid memory location, and that pointer is then accessed. A write from, or read to, the memory address 0x0 (+ small-offset) will generally reference invalid or unused memory, which typically leads to the majority of published denial-of-service (DoS) attacks both locally and remotely.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thoughts on Hardware Virtualization Exception (#VE)

Recently in the latest Intel SDM, you can find that there is a new exception type, Virtualization Exception, in Chapter 6 (Interrupt and Exception Handling) of  VOL2.

What is it? How to use it? ...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Introduction to Processor Hardware Security Features in x86 & ARM Architectures

x86 and ARM processors both provide many hardware enforced security features, e.g. NX (No-eXecute) for executable space protection, to help system software engineers to build a secure computing environment. 

This article summaries those security features for both x86/Intel and ARM architectures, and explains how are they used by Operating System.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Yet Another Solution to Monitor/Trap SYSCALL with Virtualization Technology (x86)

This article describes an idea to monitor SYSCALL with x86 Hardware Virtualization Technology. It doesn't require visible guest code/data modification, so that in some cases, even Kernel Patch Protection (e.g. Windows x64 PatchGuard) cannot detect it. Here the SYSCALL could also be SYSENTER or INT 80h for system calls.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Thoughts on VMXON and VMCS regions in VT-x (from security's point of view)

Previously when I was working on a Hypervisor based on Intel VT-x. I always did exactly as what I'm told to do in the VT-x specification when programing VMM software. 
But now I'm going to revisit this again starting by asking these questions: What if I won't do it as what we're told to do? Is Intel VT-x exploitable? Can we find vulnerabilities in hardware VT-x implementation? Is it possible to do "reverse-engineering" to get internals on VT-x CPU implementation? Can we take advantage of VT-x to attack other privileged resource? Can we bypass EPT layer?  However, those are just some open questions, I don't have answers either, but it has a lot of fun when you look into it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to get to know the memory address at which my code/data is actually loaded at boot initialization stage?

In embedded software development, sometimes when you're writing a PIC (position independent code) boot code, you might need to know at which memory address my bootstrap code/data is loaded by a loader at runtime. This article discusses the solutions to this question with assembly language implementation (x86). 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Good practices for programming with hardcode

What a contradiction!

Programming with many hardcodes is not a good practice because it is hard to understand and also has maintainability issue, for example, when a condition is changed for some reason, the previous well-tuned hardcode value might not be working any more.

However, when there are some conditions under which we must have to write hardcodes when programming, then what're good practices? The rest of this article is focusing on this. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Approach to retrieving the physical memory map on different system (SFI, LEGACY,UEFI)

According to Wikipedia, in computer science a memory map is a structure of data (which usually resides in memory itself) that indicates how the memory space is laid out. In the boot process, a memory map is passed on from the firmware in order to instruct an operating system kernel about memory layout. It contains the information regarding the size of total memory, the range of specific memory space and any reserved regions, it may also provide other details specific to the architecture and platform.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Monitoring Windows OS scheduling events in a noninvasive way with Hardware Virtualization technology (Anti-Rootkit)

A rootkit is a stealthy type of software, typically malicious, designed to hide the existence of itself or certain processes/programs from normal methods of detection and enable continued privileged access to a computer. However, even though the malicious process/program can be invisible to users, internally it must have to get time slices for running, otherwise if it has no chance to get scheduled by CPU, such an existence is meaningless for malware author. 

This article provides a solution to detect the malware and inspect its behaviors by monitoring each OS thread scheduling event.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Debug Registers on Intel x86 Processor Architecture (with or without VT-x)

Intel processor architectures provide debug facilities for use in debugging code and monitoring system behaviors. Such a debug support is accessed using debug registers (DR0 through DR7), and handled by a dedicated exception routine. 

Debug registers (Dr0~DR3) hold the addresses of memory and I/O locations called breakpoints. Breakpoints are user selected locations in a program, a data-storage area in memory, or specific I/O ports. They are set where a programmer or system designer wishes to halt execution of a program and examine the state of the processor by invoking debugger software. A debug exception (#DB, vector = 1) is generated when a memory or I/O access is made to a breakpoint address.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Multiboot Specification and limitations (Bootloader -> OS)

Typically in a computer system, the boot sequence is like this: firmware -> bootloader -> Operating System.  The problem is that nowadays we have the largest variety of operating systems, boot loaders, and firmwares (UEFI/Legacy), and even some of them are proprietary software that are not public. So, the interaction might be a problem if the interface is not well-defined.