CLOUD 2023
Conference paper

On the Value of Sequence-Based System Call Filtering for Container Security

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One critical attack that exploits kernel vulnerabilities through system call invocations is considered a serious threat to container security since it results in the privilege escalation followed by the infamous container escape. The seccomp kernel feature provides the first line of defense against it. Further, secure container runtimes such as gVisor also make use of it to strengthen security. However, it is known to be brittle since it operates at the granularity of the individual system call. Inadvertent filtering of necessary system calls may inhibit the correct execution while overly generous rules allow the attacks. We believe that, by looking at the sequence of system calls, we can achieve more accurate and effective blocking of attacks in containers. To this end, we built a software tool, Nimos, that performs a combination of static and dynamic analyses of exploit codes in an automated way and investigated the existence of such commonly occurring system call sequences. Then, we analyzed the expected defensive power from applying the sequence-based filtering mechanisms using a large set of collected kernel vulnerabilities to assess the feasibility. We found that there exist a significant number and forms of commonly appearing system call sequences that can be used as a clear signature of the class of attacks. We characterize these common system call sequences that exist among the exploit codes and evaluate the expected effectiveness of a sequence-based system call filtering mechanism for containers.


02 Jul 2023


CLOUD 2023