Title: Building Secure Operating Systems
Host: Avi Silberschatz
Abstract: Today’s operating systems are large, complex, and plagued with vulnerabilities that allow perpetrators to exploit them for profit. The constant rise in the number of software weaknesses, coupled with the sophistication of modern adversaries, make the need for effective and adaptive defenses more critical than ever. In this talk, I will present my work on developing novel protection mechanisms and exploit prevention techniques that improve the security posture of commodity operating systems. In particular, I will discuss kGuard and XPFO, two projects whose goal is to harden contemporary OSes against attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in kernel code, without entailing extra software (e.g., hypervisor or VMM) or special hardware. In addition, I will talk about ret2dir, a new kernel exploitation technique that I developed, which uncovered how fundamental OS design practices and implementation decisions can significantly weaken the effectiveness of state of-the-art kernel protection mechanisms.
Bio: Vasileios (Vasilis) Kemerlis is a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University. His research interests are in the areas of systems and software security, with a focus on OS kernel protection, automated software hardening, and information-flow tracking. His work on kernel exploitation has been profiled by press and social media outlets, including Dark Reading, Hacker News, and Reddit, won the first prize in the Applied Security Research Paper competition, at the Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) 2014, and led to the adoption of kernel hardening techniques from OpenBSD and Qualcomm’s MSM Android. Vasilis holds a MPhil (2013) and MS (2010) in Computer Science from Columbia University, and a BS (2006) in Computer Science from Athens University of Economics and Business.