Computer Sciences Dept.

Strengthening Software Self-Checksumming via Self-Modifying Code

Jonathon T. Giffin, Mihai Christodorescu, Louis Kruger

Recent research has proposed self-checksumming as a method by which a program can detect any possibly malicious modification to its code. Wurster et al. developed an attack against such programs that renders code modifications undetectable to any self-checksumming routine. The attack replicated pages of program text and altered values in hardware data structures so that data reads and instruction fetches retrieved values from different memory pages. A cornerstone of their attack was its applicability to a variety of commodity hardware: they could alter memory accesses using only a malicious operating system. In this paper, we show that their page-replication attack can be detected by self-checksumming programs with self-modifying code. Our detection is efficient, adding less than 1 microsecond to each checksum computation in our experiments on three processor families, and is robust up to attacks using either costly interpretive emulation or specialized hardware.

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