HeapCheck: Low-cost Hardware Support for Memory Safety
Programs written in C/C++ are vulnerable to memory-safety errors like buffer-overflows and use-after-free. While several mechanisms to detect such errors have been previously proposed, they suffer from a variety of drawbacks, including poor performance, imprecise or probabilistic detection of errors, or requiring invasive changes to the ISA, binary-layout, or source-code that results in compatibility issues. As a result, memory-safety errors continue to be hard to detect and a principal cause of security problems.In this work, we present a minimally invasive and low-cost hardware-based memory-safety checking framework for detecting out-of-bounds accesses and use-after-free errors. The key idea of our mechanism is to re-purpose some of the "unused bits"in a pointer in 64-bit architectures to store an index into a bounds information table that can be used to catch out-bounds errors and use-after-free errors without any change to the binary layout. Using this memory-safety checking framework, we enable HeapCheck, a design for detecting Out-of-bounds and Use-after-free accesses for heap-objects, that are responsible for the majority of memory-safety errors in the wild. Our evaluations using C/C++ SPEC CPU 2017 workloads on Gem5 show that our solution incurs 1.5% slowdown on average, using an 8 KB on-chip SRAM cache for caching bounds-information. Our mechanism allows detection of out-of-bounds errors in user-code as well as in unmodified shared-library functions. Our mechanism has detected out-of-bounds accesses in 87 lines of code in the SPEC CPU 2017 benchmarks, primarily in Glibc v2.27 functions, that, to our knowledge, have not been previously detected even with popular tools like Address Sanitizer.