VPS: Excavating high-level C++ constructs from low-level binaries to protect dynamic dispatching

Andre Pawlowski, Victor van der Veen, Dennis Andriesse, Erik van der Kouwe, Thorsten Holz, Cristiano Giuffrida, Herbert Bos

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

223 Downloads (Pure)


Polymorphism and inheritance make C++ suitable for writing complex software, but significantly increase the attack surface because the implementation relies on virtual function tables (vtables). These vtables contain function pointers that attackers can potentially hijack and in practice, vtable hijacking is one of the most important attack vector for C++ binaries. In this paper, we present VTable Pointer Separation (vps), a practical binary-level defense against vtable hijacking in C++ applications. Unlike previous binary-level defenses, which rely on unsound static analyses to match classes to virtual callsites, vps achieves a more accurate protection by restricting virtual callsites to validly created objects. More specifically, vps ensures that virtual callsites can only use objects created at valid object construction sites, and only if those objects can reach the callsite. Moreover, vps explicitly prevents false positives (falsely identified virtual callsites) from breaking the binary, an issue existing work does not handle correctly or at all. We evaluate the prototype implementation of vps on a diverse set of complex, real-world applications (MongoDB, MySQL server, Node.js, SPEC CPU2017/CPU2006), showing that our approach protects on average 97.8% of all virtual callsites in SPEC CPU2006 and 97.4% in SPEC CPU2017 (all C++ benchmarks), with a moderate performance overhead of 11% and 9% geomean, respectively. Furthermore, our evaluation reveals 86 false negatives in VTV, a popular source-based defense which is part of GCC.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationACSAC '19
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 35th Annual Computer Security Applications ConferenceDecember 2019
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781450376280
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
Event35th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference, ACSAC 2019 - San Juan, United States
Duration: 9 Dec 201913 Dec 2019

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Conference35th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference, ACSAC 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Juan


  • Binary Analysis
  • CFI


Dive into the research topics of 'VPS: Excavating high-level C++ constructs from low-level binaries to protect dynamic dispatching'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this