Perimeter-Crossing Buses: A New Attack Surface for Embedded Systems

Bratus, S., Goodspeed, T., Johnson, P. C., Smith, S., Speers, R.

Workshop on Embedded Systems Security (WESS 2012), October 2012.

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Any channel crossing the perimeter of a system provides an attack surface to the adversary. Standard network interfaces, such as TCP/IP stacks, constitute one such channel, and security researchers and exploit developers have invested much e ort into exploring the attack surfaces and defenses there. However, channels such as USB have been overlooked, even though such code is at least as complexly layered as a network stack, and handles even more complex structures; drivers are notorious as a breeding ground of bugs copy-pasted from boilerplate sample code.

This paper maps out the bus-facing attack surface of a modern operating system, and demonstrates that effective and efficient injection of trac into the buses is real and easily a ordable. Further, it presents a simple and inexpensive hardware tool for the job, outlining the architectural and computation-theoretic challenges to creating a defensive OS/driver architecture comparable to that which has been achieved for network stacks

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