Feeds

Boffins boast newfangled rootkit blocker

Large scale, low overhead

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Scientists are set to unveil a lightweight system they say makes an operating system significantly more resistant to rootkits without degrading its performance.

The hypervisor-based system is dubbed HookSafe, and it works by relocating kernel hooks in a guest OS to a dedicated page-aligned memory space that's tightly locked down. The researchers, from Microsoft and the computer science department at North Carolina State University, plan to present their findings Thursday at the 16th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.

The team installed HookSafe on a machine running Ubuntu 8.04, and found the system successfully prevented nine real-world rootkits targeting that platform from installing or hiding themselves. The program was able to achieve that protection with only a 6-percent reduction in performance benchmarks, making HookSafe "the first system that is proposed to enable large-scale hook protection with low performance overhead," the researchers said.

Rootkits that rely on a method known as kernel object hooking involve modifying kernel data hooks. Because they are scattered throughout the operating system memory, and often co-mingled with other kernel data, they are generally hard to protect. Scientists have dubbed the problem the "protection granularity gap" because effective protection requires byte-level granularity while commodity computers allow only for protection at the much broader page level.

The researchers worked around this limitation by relocating almost 5,900 kernel hooks scattered across 41 physical pages to a page-aligned central location. They then used a "thin hook indirection layer to regulate accesses to them with hardware-based page-level protection."

They tested the protected system against nine rootkits written for the Linux 2.6 kernel. Seven of them failed to install at all thanks to the memory protection, while the remaining two failed to hide themselves because of the hook indirection.

The researchers are Zhi Wang, Xuxian Jiang and Peng Ning of North Carolina State University and Weidong Cui of Microsoft Research. A PDF of their paper is available here. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.