Researchers to cure Blue Pill virtualization attacks

North Carolina State University researchers develop virtualization security software HyperSafe

Two researchers from North Carolina State University have developed software that they say can protect virtualization hypervisors from malicious "Blue Pill" rootkit threats.

"HyperSafe enables the hypervisor self-protection from code injection attempts," said Xuxian Jiang, an assistant professor of computer science at NCSU.

Jiang, along with his PhD. student Zhi Wang, developed the software, called HyperSafe, with funding from the U.S. Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation.

He plans to present a paper describing the work, "HyperSafe: A Lightweight Approach to Provide Lifetime Hypervisor Control-Flow Integrity," at the IEEE Symposium On Security And Privacy, which will take place in Oakland, California, on May 18.

Security buffs might remember Jiang's earlier work. Last year, HookSafe, kernel root kit protection software he helped devise, attracted a bit of attention in the security community.

The new software borrows applies some of the kernel protection ideas developed for HookSafe to the hypervisor.

Typically, a hypervisor attack will exploit a vulnerability, such as a buffer overflow, to inject malicious code into hypervisor. In Blue Pill attacks, for instance, a rootkit is installed that can intercept all the calls and redirect them, unbeknownst to the operating system.

"With the lockdown technique in HyperSafe, we can effectively block such attempts," Jiang said. Thus far, none of the commercial virtualization vendors have offered a cure for Blue Pill-styled attacks, Jiang said.

The software secures hypervisors with two techniques. One is something called "non-bypassable memory lockdown," which secures page table memory in such a way that it can only be altered by the hypervisor administrator. This means that no new executable code can be exerted, nor could existing code be altered.

Secondly, the software also protects the function pointers (also widely known as hooks) in the hypervisor from being compromised. Again, only the hypervisor administrator can alter the settings.

Currently, the HyperSafe prototype works with BitVisor and Xen, though should also be easily ported to other Type-I hypervisors such as VMware ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V. In a production setting, hypervisors would have to be modified to include the protective code.

Although Jiang has no immediate plans for commercializing the technology, he said he would be welcome to working with any of the key players in the market.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityBlue Pillhypervisorvirtualisation

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?