Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Vulnerability research plays a key role in preventing and defending against malicious computer system exploitations. Driven by a multi-billion dollar underground economy, cyber criminals today tirelessly launch malicious exploitations, threatening every aspect of daily computing. to effectively protect computer systems from devastation, it is imperative to discover and mitigate vulnerabilities before they fall into the offensive parties' hands. This dissertation is dedicated to the research and discovery of new design and deployment vulnerabilities in three very different types of computer systems.;The first vulnerability is found in the automatic malicious binary (malware) detection system. Binary analysis, a central piece of technology for malware detection, are divided into two classes, static analysis and dynamic analysis. State-of-the-art detection systems employ both classes of analyses to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses for improved detection results. However, we found that the commonly seen design patterns may suffer from evasion attacks. We demonstrate attacks on the vulnerabilities by designing and implementing a novel binary obfuscation technique.;The second vulnerability is located in the design of server system power management. Technological advancements have improved server system power efficiency and facilitated energy proportional computing. However, the change of power profile makes the power consumption subjected to unaudited influences of remote parties, leaving the server systems vulnerable to energy-targeted malicious exploit. We demonstrate an energy abusing attack on a standalone open Web server, measure the extent of the damage, and present a preliminary defense strategy.;The third vulnerability is discovered in the application of server virtualization technologies. Server virtualization greatly benefits today's data centers and brings pervasive cloud computing a step closer to the general public. However, the practice of physical co-hosting virtual machines with different security privileges risks introducing covert channels that seriously threaten the information security in the cloud. We study the construction of high-bandwidth covert channels via the memory sub-system, and show a practical exploit of cross-virtual-machine covert channels on virtualized x86 platforms.
© The Author
Wu, Zhenyu, "Discovering New Vulnerabilities in Computer Systems" (2012). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1539623356.