Counterfeit Object-oriented Programming: On the Difficulty of Preventing Code Reuse Attacks in C++ Applications

Felix Schuster, Thomas Tendyck, Christopher Liebchen, Lucas Davi, Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi, Thorsten Holz

36th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (Oakland), San Jose, May 2015


Code reuse attacks such as return-oriented programming (ROP) have become prevalent techniques to exploit memory corruption vulnerabilities in software programs. A variety of corresponding defenses has been proposed, of which some have already been successfully bypassed—and the arms race continues.

In this paper, we perform a systematic assessment of recently proposed CFI solutions and other defenses against code reuse attacks in the context of C++. We demonstrate that many of these defenses that do not consider object-oriented C++ semantics precisely can be generically bypassed in practice. Our novel attack technique, denoted as counterfeit object-oriented programming (COOP), induces malicious program behavior by only invoking chains of existing C++ virtual functions in a program through corresponding existing call sites. COOP is Turing complete in realistic attack scenarios and we show its viability by developing sophisticated, real-world exploits for Internet Explorer 10 on Windows and Firefox 36 on Linux. Moreover, we show that even recently proposed defenses (CPS, T-VIP, vfGuard, and VTint) that specifically target C++ are vulnerable to COOP. We observe that constructing defenses resilient to COOP that do not require access to source code seems to be challenging. We believe that our investigation and results are helpful contributions to the design and implementation of future defenses against control-flow hijacking attacks.


Tags: C++, CFI, code reuse, COOP, ROP