Saturday, January 28, 2012

Writing kernel exploits

Yesterday I gave a talk about writing kernel exploits. I've posted the slides [PDF]. Here is the original description:

Did you know that a NULL pointer can compromise your entire system? Do you know how UNIX pipes, multithreading, and an obscure network protocol from 1981 are combined to take over Linux machines today? OS kernels are full of strange and interesting vulnerabilities, thanks to the subtle nature of systems code. And the kernel's ultimate authority is the ultimate prize for an attacker.

In this talk you will learn how kernel exploits work, with detailed code examples. Compared to userspace, exploiting the kernel requires a whole different bag of tricks, and we'll cover some of the most important ones. We will focus on Linux systems and x86 hardware, though most ideas will generalize. We'll start with a few toy examples, then look at some real, high-profile Linux exploits from the past two years.

You will also see how to protect your own Linux machines against kernel exploits. We'll talk about the continual cat-and-mouse game between system administrators and those who would attack even hardened kernels.

Thanks again to SIPB for giving me a venue to talk about whatever I find interesting.


  1. I'm surprised that computers are still able to work at all.

  2. Thank you, I really enjoyed reading your slides!

  3. Nice presentation! Please keep posting stuff like this in the future :)

    Also... where was this given? Was there more material like this?

  4. Interesting slides. Is there a recording of the talk?

  5. It's really nice to read! Thanks for sharing the information, Keegan!

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