Despite previous efforts in auditing software manually and automatically, buffer overruns are still being discovered in programs in use. A dynamic bounds checker detects buffer overruns in erroneous software before it occurs and thereby prevents attacks from corrupting the integrity of the system. Dynamic buffer overrun detectors have not been adopted widely because they either (1) cannot guard against all buffer overrun attacks, (2) break existing code, or (3) incur too high an overhead. This paper presents a practical detector called CRED (C Range Error Detector) that avoids each of these deficiencies. CRED finds all buffer overrun attacks as it directly checks for the bounds of memory accesses. Unlike the original referent-object based bounds-checking technique, CRED does not break existing code because it uses a novel solution to support program manipulation of out-of-bounds addresses. Finally, by restricting the bounds checks to strings in a program, CRED’s overhead is greatly reduced without sacrificing protection in the experiments we performed. CRED is implemented as an extension of the GNU C compiler version 3.3.1. The simplicity of our design makes possible a robust implementation that has been tested on over 20 open-source programs, comprising over 1.2 million lines of C code. CRED proved effective in detecting buffer overrun attacks on programs with known vulnerabilities, and is the only tool found to guard against a testbed of 20 different buffer overflow attacks. Finding overruns only on strings impose an overhead of les
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