Randomized Instruction Set Emulation

CitationACM Transactions on Information and System Security, 8 (2005), pp. 3-40.
AuthorsG. Barrantes
David Ackley
Stephanie Forrest
D. Stefanovic


Injecting binary code into a running program is a common form of attack. Most defenses employ a "guard the doors" approach, blocking known mechanisms of code injection. Randomized instruction set emulation (RISE) is a complementary method of defense, one that performs a hidden randomization of an application's machine code. If foreign binary code is injected into a program running under RISE, it will not be executable because it will not know the proper randomization. The paper describes and analyzes RISE, describing a proof-of-concept implementation built on the open-source Valgrind IA32-to-IA32 translator. The prototype effectively disrupts binary code injection attacks, without requiring recompilation, linking, or access to application source code. Under RISE, injected code (attacks) essentially executes random code sequences. Empirical studies and a theoretical model are reported which treat the effects of executing random code on two different architectures (IA32 and PowerPC). The paper discusses possible extensions and applications of the RISE technique in other contexts.

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