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The Liberty Research Group

The Security Project

Secure Program Execution via Dynamic Information Flow Tracking [abstract] (ACM DL, PDF)
G. Edward Suh, Jae W. Lee, David Zhang, and Srinivas Devadas
Proceedings of the 11th ACM Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS), October 2004.
Accept Rate: 14% (24/169).

We present a simple architectural mechanism called dynamic information flow tracking that can significantly improve the security of computing systems with negligible performance overhead. Dynamic information flow tracking protects programs against malicious software attacks by identifying spurious information flows from untrusted I/O and restricting the usage of the spurious information.

Every security attack to take control of a program needs to transfer the program's control to malevolent code. In our approach, the operating system identifies a set of input channels as spurious, and the processor tracks all information flows from those inputs. A broad range of attacks are effectively defeated by checking the use of the spurious values as instructions and pointers.

Our protection is transparent to users or application programmers; the executables can be used without any modification. Also, our scheme only incurs, on average, a memory overhead of 1.4% and a performance overhead of 1.1%.