Journal of Computer Science and Technology ›› 2021, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (6): 1248-1268.doi: 10.1007/s11390-021-1593-4

Special Issue: Software Systems

• Special Section on Software Systems 2021-Theme: Dependable Software Engineering • Previous Articles     Next Articles

MEBS: Uncovering Memory Life-Cycle Bugs in Operating System Kernels

Gen Zhang, Peng-Fei Wang, Tai Yue, Xu Zhou, and Kai Lu, Member, CCF        

  1. College of Computer, National University of Defense Technology, Changsha 410073, China
  • Received:2021-05-18 Revised:2021-08-25 Online:2021-11-30 Published:2021-12-01
  • Supported by:
    This work is supported by the National High-Level Personnel for Defense Technology Program of China under Grant No. 2017- JCJQ-ZQ-013, the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant Nos. 61902405 and 61902412, the Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Province of China under Grant No. 2021JJ40692, the Parallel and Distributed Processing Research Foundation under Grant No. 6142110190404, and the Research Project of National University of Defense Technology under Grant Nos. ZK20-09 and ZK20-17.

Allocation, dereferencing, and freeing of memory data in kernels are coherently linked. There widely exist real cases where the correctness of memory is compromised. This incorrectness in kernel memory brings about significant security issues, e.g., information leaking. Though memory allocation, dereferencing, and freeing are closely related, previous work failed to realize they are closely related. In this paper, we study the life-cycle of kernel memory, which consists of allocation, dereferencing, and freeing. Errors in them are called memory life-cycle (MLC) bugs. We propose an in-depth study of MLC bugs and implement a memory life-cycle bug sanitizer (MEBS) for MLC bug detection. Utilizing an interprocedural global call graph and novel identification approaches, MEBS can reveal memory allocation, dereferencing, and freeing sites in kernels. By constructing a modified define-use chain and examining the errors in the life-cycle, MLC bugs can be identified. Moreover, the experimental results on the latest kernels demonstrate that MEBS can effectively detect MLC bugs, and MEBS can be scaled to different kernels. More than 100 new bugs are exposed in Linux and FreeBSD, and 12 common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) are assigned.

Key words: software security; operating system; memory life-cycle; static analysis; vulnerability detection;

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