Picking a CHERI Allocator: Security and Performance Considerations

Bramley, J., Jacob, D. , Lascu, A., Singer, J. and Tratt, L. (2023) Picking a CHERI Allocator: Security and Performance Considerations. In: 2023 ACM SIGPLAN International Symposium on Memory Management, Orlando, FL, USA, 18 Jun 2023, pp. 111-123. ISBN 9798400701795 (doi: 10.1145/3591195.3595278)

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Several open-source memory allocators have been ported to CHERI, a hardware capability platform. In this paper we examine the security and performance of these allocators when run under CheriBSD on Arm's prototype Morello platform. We introduce a number of security attacks and show that all but one allocator are vulnerable to some of the attacks --- including the default CheriBSD allocator. We then show that while some forms of allocator performance are meaningful, comparing the performance of hybrid and pure capability (i.e. "running in non-CHERI vs. running in CHERI modes") allocators does not currently appear to be meaningful. Although we do not fully understand the reasons for this, it seems to be at least as much due to factors such as immature compiler toolchains and prototype hardware as it is due to the effects of capabilities on performance.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Additional Information:This work was funded by the Digital Security by Design (DSbD) Programme delivered by UKRI (grants EP/V000349/1 and EP/V000373/1).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Singer, Dr Jeremy and Jacob, Dr Dejice
Authors: Bramley, J., Jacob, D., Lascu, A., Singer, J., and Tratt, L.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Copyright Holders:© 2023 Copyright held by the owner/author(s).
First Published:ISMM 2023: Proceedings of the 2023 ACM SIGPLAN International Symposium on Memory Management
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy
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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
310130Capable VMsJeremy SingerEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/V000349/1Computing Science