It appears that stack overflow exploits are based on knowing (roughly)
where the stack is going to be when the buffer overflows. It appears to
me that it would be possible to frustrate people attempting to exploit
such bugs by having the stack start at a random location in (say) a
10MB range near the top of memory.
As a result of such a change, most current buffer overflows would only
succeed once in a few thousand tries, unless one was able to overrun the
buffer by a large number of Kilobytes (something which is a good bit
harder to do, in many cases). This would really only frustrate
execute-arbitrary-code types of exploits (you could still cause
a program to 'return' to a wrong location, but this -- again
adds work for the cracker.
The only costs I can see to this are:
1) the stack would no longer be contiguous with other high-memory areas,
2) you would lose s small ammount of VM headroom (only a problem for programs
that actually use a large proportion of the address space)
The advantage is that this would add (possibly prohibitive) cost to
some form of stack overflow attacks. It effectively makes the stack
non-executable for an attacker who can't determine where the stack
starts for a given process -- security by obfuscation. In many ways,
this isn't much different than what is now done in choosing random
initial sequence numbers for TCP connections.
Similar changes could be made to the base address of the heap, with
Making this sort of change to the BSS and text segments would probably
require changes to the loader (I don't know the details of the loader
so I really can't say, for sure). but would similarly make it very
difficult for an intruder to jump to an arbitrary piece of known
I realize that this isn't as good as actually fixing the broken code
(anybody willing to lead a bsd=style code audit?), but it would provide
some protection against badly written code from all sorts of sources --
including proprietary code for which a security audit would not be possible.
-- Stephen Samuel +1(604)876-0426 email@example.com http://www.bcgreen.com/~samuel/ Powerful committed communication, reaching through fear, uncertainty and doubt to touch the jewel within each person and bring it to life.
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