Hypervisor Support for Identifying Covertly Executing Binaries

Lionel Litty, University of Toronto

Abstract: Hypervisors have been proposed as a security tool to defend against malware that subverts the OS kernel. However, hypervisors must deal with the semantic gap between the low-level information available to them and the high-level OS abstractions they need for analysis. To bridge this gap, systems have proposed making assumptions derived from the kernel source code or symbol information. Unfortunately, this information is non-binding—rootkits are not bound to uphold these assumptions and can escape detection by breaking them.

In this talk, I will discuss Patagonix, a hypervisor-based system that detects and identifies covertly executing binaries without making assumptions about the OS kernel. Instead, Patagonix depends only on the processor hardware to detect code execution and on the binary format specifications of executables to identify code and verify code modifications. With this, Patagonix can provide trustworthy information about the binaries running on a system, as well as detect when a rootkit is hiding or tampering with executing code.

Time and Place

25 July 2008 (Friday) at 1630 hrs
Gates 4B (opposite 490)