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PLunch: When Good Components Go Bad: Formally Secure Compilation Despite Dynamic Compromise
Michael Hicks
Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 11:00 am-12:00 pm Calendar
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Weekly PL reading group discussing the paper "When Good Components Go Bad: Formally Secure Compilation Despite Dynamic Compromise". Discussion will be led by Mike Hicks. Paper available at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1802.00588.pdf

We propose a new formal criterion for evaluating secure compilation schemes for unsafe languages, expressing end-to-end security guarantees for software components that may become compromised after encountering undefined behavior---for example, by accessing an array out of bounds.
Our criterion is the first to model dynamic compromise in a system of mutually distrustful components with clearly specified privileges. It articulates how each component should be protected from all the others---in particular, from components that have encountered undefined behavior and become compromised. Each component receives secure compilation guarantees---in particular, its internal invariants are protected from compromised components---up to the point when this component itself becomes compromised, after which we assume an attacker can take complete control and use this component's privileges to attack other components. More precisely, a secure compilation chain must ensure that a dynamically compromised component cannot break the safety properties of the system at the target level any more than an arbitrary attacker-controlled component (with the same interface and privileges, but without undefined behaviors) already could at the source level.
To illustrate the model, we construct a secure compilation chain for a small unsafe language with buffers, procedures, and components, targeting a simple abstract machine with built-in compartmentalization. We give a careful proof (mostly machine-checked in Coq) that this compiler satisfies our secure compilation criterion. Finally, we show that the protection guarantees offered by the compartmentalized abstract machine can be achieved at the machine-code level using either software fault isolation or a tag-based reference monitor.

This talk is organized by Sankha Narayan Guria