Poking Holes in Information Hiding

Angelos Oikonomopoulos, Ilias Athanasopoulos, H.J. Bos, Cristiano Giuffrida

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


ASLR is no longer a strong defense in itself, but it still serves as a foundation for sophisticated defenses that use randomization for pseudo-isolation. Crucially, these defenses hide sensitive information (such as shadow stacks and safe regions) at a random position in a very large address space. Previous attacks on randomization-based information hiding rely on complicated side channels and/or probing of the mapped memory regions. Assuming no weaknesses exist in the implementation of hidden regions, the attacks typically lead to many crashes or other visible side-effects. For this reason, many researchers still consider the pseudo-isolation offered by ASLR sufficiently strong in practice.

We introduce powerful new primitives to show that this faith in ASLR-based information hiding is misplaced, and that attackers can break ASLR and find hidden regions on 32 bit and 64 bit Linux systems quickly with very few malicious inputs. Rather than building on memory accesses that probe the allocated memory areas, we determine the sizes of the unallocated holes in the address space by repeatedly allocating large chunks of memory. Given the sizes, an attacker can infer the location of the hidden region with few or no side-effects. We show that allocation oracles are pervasive and evaluate our primitives on real-world server applications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication25th USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 16, Austin, TX, USA, August 10-12, 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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