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Tech-giant Intel has come up with a plan
to defeat attacks that use return-oriented programming (ROP) to exploit memory
vulnerabilities. The chip-level plan would block malware infections on
computers at the processor level.

The new measures are reviewed in a
specification from Intel which describes the Control-flow Enforcement
Technology (CET) and its attempt to overcome exploits that use ROP and
jump-orientated programming (JOP).

CET aims to fill an opening in defensive capabilities against these two conflict
types offering  protection for
applications and handling complement kernels.

Attackers can use ROP and JOP to execute malicious code to bypass
operating-system security measures, such as non-executable memory and code

Baidu Patel, director of the platform security architecture and strategy
team in Intel’s Software and Services group said, “ROP or JOP attacks are
particularly hard to detect or prevent because the attacker uses existing code
running from executable memory in a creative way to change program behaviour.”

“What makes it hard to detect or prevent ROP/JOP is the fact that
attacker uses existing code running from executable memory. Many software-based
detection and prevention techniques have been developed and deployed with
limited success,” Patel added.

CET works by introducing a shadow stack – which only contains return
addresses, is held in system RAM, and is protected by the CPU’s memory
management unit. These shadow stacks are isolated from the data stack and
protected from tampering.

CET focuses on CALL and RETURN instructions and compares a return address
that is stored in the data with the shadow stack. If the addresses don’t marry
up, an exception is flagged.

According to Patel, a CET spec is a perfection of techniques that Intel and
Microsoft have jointly grown over a past 7 years directed during anticipating a
extensive counterclaim opposite ROP/JOP attacks.

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