Preventing use-after-free attacks with fast forward allocation

Brian Wickman, Hong Hu, Insu Yun, Daehee Jang, Jung Won Lim, Sanidhya Kashyap, Taesoo Kim

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Memory-unsafe languages are widely used to implement critical systems like kernels and browsers, leading to thousands of memory safety issues every year. A use-after-free bug is a temporal memory error where the program accidentally visits a freed memory location. Recent studies show that use-after-free is one of the most exploited memory vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, previous efforts to mitigate use-after-free bugs are not widely deployed in real-world programs due to either inadequate accuracy or high performance overhead. In this paper, we propose to resurrect the idea of one-time allocation (OTA) and provide a practical implementation with efficient execution and moderate memory overhead. With onetime allocation, the memory manager always returns a distinct memory address for each request. Since memory locations are not reused, attackers cannot reclaim freed objects, and thus cannot exploit use-after-free bugs. We utilize two techniques to render OTA practical: batch page management and the fusion of bump-pointer and fixed-size bins memory allocation styles. Batch page management helps reduce the number of system calls which negatively impact performance, while blending the two allocation methods mitigates the memory overhead and fragmentation issues. We implemented a prototype, called FFmalloc, to demonstrate our techniques. We evaluated FFmalloc on widely used benchmarks and real-world large programs. FFmalloc successfully blocked all tested use-after-free attacks while introducing moderate overhead. The results show that OTA can be a strong and practical solution to thwart use-after-free threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th USENIX Security Symposium
PublisherUSENIX Association
Pages2453-2470
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781939133243
StatePublished - 2021
Event30th USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Aug 11 2021Aug 13 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 30th USENIX Security Symposium

Conference

Conference30th USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Period8/11/218/13/21

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

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