Dartmouth logo Dartmouth College Computer Science
Technical Report series
CS home
TR home
TR search TR listserv
By author: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
By number: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1986

Exploiting the Hard-Working DWARF: Trojans with no Native Executable Code
James M.H. Oakley, Sergey Bratus
Dartmouth TR2011-680


All binaries compiled by recent versions of GCC from C++ programs include complex data and dedicated code for exception handling support. The data structures describe the call stack frame layout in the DWARF format bytecode. The dedicated code includes an interpreter of this bytecode and logic to implement the call stack unwinding.

Despite being present in a large class of programs -- and therefore potentially providing a huge attack surface -- this mechanism is not widely known or studied. Of particular interest to us is that the exception handling mechanism provides the means for fundamentally altering the flow of a program. DWARF is designed specifically for calculating call frame addresses and register values. DWARF expressions are Turing-complete and may calculate register values based on any readable data in the address space of the process. The exception handling data is in effect an embedded program residing within every C++ process. This talk explores what can be accomplished with control of the exception handling information without modifying the program's text or data. We also examine the exception handling mechanism and argue that it is rife for vulnerability finding, not least because the error states of a program are often those least well tested.


Bibliographic citation for this report: [plain text] [BIB] [BibTeX] [Refer]

Or copy and paste:
   James M.H. Oakley and Sergey Bratus, "Exploiting the Hard-Working DWARF: Trojans with no Native Executable Code." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report TR2011-680, April 2011.

Notify me about new tech reports.

Search the technical reports.

To receive paper copy of a report, by mail, send your address and the TR number to reports AT cs.dartmouth.edu

Copyright notice: The documents contained in this server are included by the contributing authors as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a non-commercial basis. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that they have offered their works here electronically. It is understood that all persons copying this information will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. These works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

Technical reports collection maintained by David Kotz.