Efficient Protection Against Heap-Based Buffer Overflows Without Resorting to Magic

  • Yves Younan
  • Wouter Joosen
  • Frank Piessens
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4307)


Bugs in dynamic memory management, including for instance heap-based buffer overflows and dangling pointers, are an important source of vulnerabilities in C and C++. Overwriting the management information of the memory allocation library is often a source of attack on these vulnerabilities. All existing countermeasures with low performance overhead rely on magic values or canaries. A secret value is placed before a crucial memory location and by monitoring whether the value has changed, overruns can be detected. Hence, if attackers are able to read arbitrary memory locations, they can bypass the countermeasure. In this paper we present an approach that, when applied to a memory allocator, will protect against this attack vector without resorting to magic. We implemented our approach by modifying an existing widely-used memory allocator. Benchmarks show that this implementation has a negligible, sometimes even beneficial, impact on performance.


Management Information Lookup Table Chunk Size Performance Overhead Memory Region 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yves Younan
    • 1
  • Wouter Joosen
    • 1
  • Frank Piessens
    • 1
  1. 1.DistriNet, Dept. of Computer ScienceKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenHeverleeBelgium

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