Towards Application Security on Untrusted Operating Systems

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“Towards Application Security on Untrusted Operating Systems” by Dan R. K. Ports and Tal Garfinkel. In Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Hot Topics in Security (HotSec '08), (San Jose, CA, USA), July 2008, USENIX.


Complexity in commodity operating systems makes compromises inevitable. Consequently, a great deal of work has examined how to protect security-critical portions of applications from the OS through mechanisms such as microkernels, virtual machine monitors, and new processor architectures. Unfortunately, most work has focused on CPU and memory isolation and neglected OS semantics. Thus, while much is known about how to prevent OS and application processes from modifying each other, far less is understood about how different OS components can undermine application security if they turn malicious.

We consider this problem in the context of our work on Overshadow, a virtual-machine-based system for retrofitting protection in commodity operating systems. We explore how malicious behavior in each major OS subsystem can undermine application security, and present potential mitigations. While our discussion is presented in terms of Overshadow and Linux, many of the problems and solutions are applicable to other systems where trusted applications rely on untrusted, potentially malicious OS components.

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BibTeX entry:

   author = {Dan R. K. Ports and Tal Garfinkel},
   title = {Towards Application Security on Untrusted Operating Systems},
   booktitle = {Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Hot Topics in Security
	(HotSec '08)},
   address = {San Jose, CA, USA},
   month = jul,
   year = {2008},
   organization = {USENIX}

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