Feeds

Boffins boast newfangled rootkit blocker

Large scale, low overhead

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
BlackEnergy crimeware coursing through US control systems
US CERT says three flavours of control kit are under attack
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.