USENIX Security '19 Technical Sessions
> The full Proceedings published by USENIX for the conference are available for download below. Individual papers can also be downloaded from the presentation page.
Game of Trees
> Game of Trees is a work-in-progress version control system which attempts to be appealing to OpenBSD developers.
Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout
> We are pleased to submit the Final Report of the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force. As directed by you, the Task Force has completed a thorough investigation of the causes of the August 14, 2003 blackout and has recommended actions to minimize the likelihood and scope of similar events in the future.
> The report makes clear that this blackout could have been prevented and that immediate actions must be taken in both the United States and Canada to ensure that our electric system is more reliable. First and foremost, compliance with reliability rules must be made mandatory with substantial penalties for non-compliance.
The Legitimate Vulnerability Market
> Trading of 0-day computer exploits between hackers has been taking place for as long as computer exploits have existed. A black market for these exploits has developed around their illegal use. Recently, a trend has developed toward buying and selling these exploits as a source of legitimate income for security researchers. However, this emerging “0-day market” has some unique aspects that make this particularly difficult to accomplish in a fair manner. These problems, along with possible solutions will be discussed. These issues will be illustrated by following two case studies of attempted sales of 0-day exploits.
> May 6, 2007
The Synchronization of Periodic Routing Messages
> The paper considers a network with many apparently-independent periodic processes and discusses one method by which these processes can inadvertently become synchronized. In particular, we study the synchronization of periodic routing messages, and offer guidelines on how to avoid inadvertent synchronization. Using simulations and analysis, we study the process of synchronization and show that the transition from unsynchronized to synchronized traffic is not one of gradual degradation but is instead a very abrupt ‘phase transition’: in general, the addition of a single router will convert a completely unsynchronized traffic stream into a completely synchronized one. We show that synchronization can be avoided by the addition of randomization to the traffic sources and quantify how much randomization is necessary. In addition, we argue that the inadvertent synchronization of periodic processes is likely to become an increasing problem in computer networks.
In Memoriam: J. C. R. Licklider
Two papers. Man-Computer Symbiosis and The Computer as a Communication Device.
The first argues for interactive systems. The computer can’t be an extension of our mind if it’s not responsive.
The second is a vision for networked communications. It sounds a lot like today, but more optimistic. Where did we go wrong?
Banding in Games: A Noisy Rant
> If you use sRGB correctly, you’re doing pretty well - you will generally hardly notice banding (though dark areas remain)
> If you are not on a platform where it’s readily available, or you want to get rid of the last issues, the rest of this presentation is for you
Dithering. Lots of dithering.
Interview with Bill Joy
> The following interview is taken from the August 1984 issue of Unix Review magazine.
A lot of text editor history here, featuring of course, vi.
> I think it killed the performance on a lot of the systems in the Labs for years because everyone had their own copy of it, but it wasn’t being shared, and so they wasted huge amounts of memory back when memory was expensive. With 92 people in the Labs maintaining vi independently, I think they ultimately wasted incredible amounts of money. I was surprised about vi going in, though, I didn’t know it was in System V. I learned about it being in System V quite a while after it had come out.
Plus some commentary on other topics.
> The point is that you want to have a system that is responsive. You don’t want a car that talks to you. I’ll never buy a car that says, “Good morning.” The neat thing about UNIX is that it is very responsive. You just say, “A pipe to B” - it doesn’t blather at you that “execution begins,” or “execution terminated, IEFBR14.”
> The trouble is that UNIX is not accessible, not transparent in the way that Interleaf is, where you sit down and start poking around in the menu and explore the whole system. Someone I know sat down with a Macintosh and a Lisa and was disappointed because, in a half hour, he explored the whole system and there wasn’t as much as he thought. That’s true, but the point is in half an hour, almost without a manual you can know which button to push and you can find nearly everything. Things don’t get lost. I think that’s the key.
Investigating sources of PII used in Facebook’s targeted advertising
> We develop a novel technique that uses Facebook’s advertiser interface to check whether a given piece of PII can be used to target some Facebook user, and use this technique to study how Facebook’s advertising service obtains users’ PII. We investigate a range of potential sources of PII, finding that phone numbers and email addresses added as profile attributes, those provided for security purposes such as two-factor authentication, those provided to the Facebook Messenger app for the purpose of messaging, and those included in friends’ uploaded contact databases are all used by Facebook to allow advertisers to target users. These findings hold despite all the relevant privacy controls on our test accounts being set to their most private settings.
Defending against transient execution attacks
> It is important to build up a systematic understanding of these attacks and possible defenses
KPMG Audit Professionals Manipulated the Scoring of Training Exams
In today’s edition of edit a URL and go to jail...
> KPMG sent participants in training programs a hyperlink that directed them to the applicable exams. Embedded in the hyperlink was an instruction to the server that specified the score necessary to pass the exam. Thus, the characters “MasteryScore=70” meant participants were required to answer at least 70 percent of the answers accurately to pass the exam. By changing the number in the hyperlink, audit professionals could change the score required to pass.
> 58. For a period of time up to November 2015, certain audit professionals, including one partner, altered the URLs for their exams to lower the scores required to pass. Twenty-eight of these auditors did so on four or more occasions. Certain audit professionals lowered the required score to the point of passing exams while answering less than 25 percent of the questions correctly.
Also: 25%??? Come on guys, that’s worse than random chance!
From Punched Cards To Flat Screens
> When I retired at the end of September 2007, I knew I would be expected to make a speech at the retirement lunch. Looking back over the 40 years that I had been part of the computing community in Cambridge, it struck me again just how much change there had been, and also how many different areas of computing I had worked in. For the younger colleagues who listened to my speech, the early years must seem like ancient history.
Automatic Exploitation of Fully Randomized Executables
> We present Marten, a new end to end system for automatically discovering, exploiting, and combining information leakage and buffer overflow vulnerabilities to derandomize and exploit remote, fully randomized processes. Results from two case studies high- light Marten’s ability to generate short, robust ROP chain exploits that bypass address space layout randomization and other modern defenses to download and execute injected code selected by an attacker.
In-DRAM Bulk Bitwise Execution Engine
> Many applications heavily use bitwise operations on large bitvectors as part of their computation. In existing systems, performing such bulk bitwise operations requires the processor to transfer a large amount of data on the memory channel, thereby consuming high latency, memory bandwidth, and energy. In this paper, we describe Ambit, a recently-proposed mechanism to perform bulk bitwise operations completely inside main memory. Ambit exploits the internal organization and analog operation of DRAM-based memory to achieve low cost, high performance, and low energy. Ambit exposes a new bulk bitwise execution model to the host processor. Evaluations show that Ambit significantly improves the performance of several applications that use bulk bitwise operations, including databases.
RowHammer: A Retrospective
> In this article, we comprehensively survey the scientific literature on RowHammer-based attacks as well as mitigation techniques to prevent RowHammer. We also discuss what other related vulnerabilities may be lurking in DRAM and other types of memories, e.g., NAND flash memory or Phase Change Memory, that can potentially threaten the foundations of secure systems, as the memory technologies scale to higher densities. We conclude by describing and advocating a principled approach to memory reliability and security research that can enable us to better anticipate and prevent such vulnerabilities.
Exploitation and state machines
Per author, Thomas Dullien / Halvar Flake:
> I know this borders on vanity and wanking, but ... re-reading my Infiltrate 2011 slides, I think that talk was probably one of my better talks. It contained many ideas in seed form that take (or took) years to flesh out properly.
Parsing Gigabytes of JSON per Second
> Despite the maturity of the problem of JSON parsing, we show that substantial speedups are possible. We present the first standard-compliant JSON parser to process gigabytes of data per second on a single core, using commodity processors. We can use a quarter or fewer instructions than a state-of-the-art reference parser like RapidJSON. Unlike other validating parsers, our software (simdjson) makes extensive use of Single Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) instructions. To ensure reproducibility, simdjson is freely available as open-source software under a liberal license.
powerpc64 architecture support in FreeBSD ports
> For my project, I build the whole ports tree using Poudriere and fix the compilation errors I meet. In this paper, I specify challenges met during porting software to work on POWER processors on FreeBSD and show how most problems can be solved.
Trivial stuff, if only people cared. Relevant beyond narrow scope of FreeBSD PowerPC as well.
Assessing Unikernel Security
> Unikernels are small, specialized, single-address-space machine images constructed by treating component applications and drivers like libraries and compiling them, along with a kernel and a thin OS layer, into a single binary blob. Proponents of unikernels claim that their smaller codebase and lack of excess services make them more efficient and secure than full-OS virtual machines and containers. We surveyed two major unikernels, Rumprun and IncludeOS, and found that this was decidedly not the case: unikernels, which in many ways resemble embedded systems, appear to have a similarly minimal level of security. Features like ASLR, W^X, stack canaries, heap integrity checks and more are either completely absent or seriously flawed. If an application running on such a system contains a memory corruption vulnerability, it is often possible for attackers to gain code execution, even in cases where the application’s source and binary are unknown. Furthermore, because the application and the kernel run together as a single process, an attacker who compromises a unikernel can immediately exploit functionality that would require privilege escalation on a regular OS, e.g. arbitrary packet I/O. We demonstrate such attacks on both Rumprun and IncludeOS unikernels, and recommend measures to mitigate them.
Re: What's Up Johnny? -- Covert Content Attacks on Email End-to-End Encryption
> We show practical attacks against OpenPGP and S/MIME encryption and digital signatures in the context of email. Instead of targeting the underlying cryptographic primitives, our attacks abuse legitimate features of the MIME standard and HTML, as supported by email clients, to deceive the user regarding the actual message content. We demonstrate how the attacker can unknowingly abuse the user as a decryption oracle by replying to an unsuspicious looking email. Using this technique, the plaintext of hundreds of encrypted emails can be leaked at once. Furthermore, we show how users could be tricked into signing arbitrary text by replying to emails containing CSS conditional rules. An evaluation shows that 17 out of 19 OpenPGP-capable email clients, as well as 21 out of 22 clients supporting S/MIME, are vulnerable to at least one attack. We provide different countermeasures and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.