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A First Step Towards Automated Detection of Buffer Overrun Vulnerabilities



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A First Step Towards Automated Detection of Buffer Overrun Vulnerabilities David Wagner Jeffrey S Foster Eric A Brewer University of California Berkeley Abstract We describe a new technique for finding potential buffer overrun vulnerabilities in security critical C code The key to success is to use static analysis we formulate detection of buffer overruns as an integer range analysis problem One major advantage of static analysis is that security bugs can be eliminated before code is deployed We have implemented our design and used our prototype to find new remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in a large widely deployed software package An earlier hand audit missed these bugs 1 Introduction Buffer overrun vulnerabilities have plagued security architects for at least a decade In November 1988 the infamous Internet worm infected thousands or tens of thousands of network connected hosts and fragmented much of the known net 17 One of the primary replication mechanisms was exploitation of a buffer overrun vulnerability in the fingerd daemon Since then buffer overruns have been a serious continuing menace to system security If anything the incidence of buffer overrun attacks has been increasing See Figure 1 for data extracted from CERT advisories over the last decade Figure 1 shows that buffer overruns account for up to 50 of today s vulnerabilities and this ratio seems to be increasing over time A partial examination of other sources suggests that this estimate is probably not too far off buffer overruns account for 27 55 of 207 of the entries in one vulnerability database 29 and for 23 43 of 189 in another database 33 Finally a detailed examination of three months of the bugtraq archives January to March 1998 shows that 29 34 of 117 of the vulnerabilities reported are due to buffer overrun bugs 7 Buffer overruns are so common because C is inherently unsafe Array and pointer references are not automatically bounds checked so it is up to the programmer to do the This



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