Cyber-security protection techniques to mitigate memory errors exploitation

Hector Marco Gisbert

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Practical experience in software engineering has demonstrated that the goal of building totally fault-free software systems, although desirable, is impossible to achieve. Therefore, it is necessary to incorporate mitigation techniques in the deployed software, in order to reduce the impact of latent faults. This thesis makes contributions to three memory corruption mitigation techniques: the stack smashing protector (SSP), address space layout randomisation (ASLR) and automatic software diversification. The SSP is a very effective protection technique used against stack buffer overflows, but it is prone to brute force attacks, particularly the dangerous byte-for-byte attack. A novel modification, named RenewSSP, has been proposed which eliminates brute force attacks, can be used in a completely transparent way with existing software and has negligible overheads. There are two different kinds of application for which RenewSSP is especially beneficial: networking servers (tested in Apache) and application launchers (tested on Android). ASLR is a generic concept with multiple designs and implementations. In this thesis, the two most relevant ASLR implementations of Linux have been analysed (Vanilla Linux and PaX patch), and several weaknesses have been found. Taking into account technological improvements in execution support (compilers and libraries), a new ASLR design has been proposed, named ASLR-NG, which maximises entropy, effectively addresses the fragmentation issue and removes a number of identified weaknesses. Furthermore, ASLR-NG is transparent to applications, in that it preserves binary code compatibility and does not add overheads. ASLR-NG has been implemented as a patch to the Linux kernel 4.1. Software diversification is a technique that covers a wide range of faults, including memory errors. The main problem is how to create variants, i.e. programs which have identical behaviours on normal inputs but where faults manifest differently. A novel form of automatic variant generation has been proposed, using multiple cross-compiler suites and processor emulators. One of the main goals of this thesis is to create applicable results. Therefore, I have placed particular emphasis on the development of real prototypes in parallel with the theoretical study. The results of this thesis are directly applicable to real systems; in fact, some of the results have already been included in real-world products
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Polytechnic University of Valencia
  • Ripoll, Ismael, Advisor, External person
Award date4 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • CbyerSecurity
  • Protection techniques
  • Linux
  • Operating Systems
  • Software design
  • software development
  • ASLR
  • SSP


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