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Building Secure Operating Systems

Speaker: Vasileios Kemerlis
Columbia University

February 5, 2015 - 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: Sage 3101
Hosted By: Dr. Bulent Yener (x6907)


Today’s operating systems are large, complex, and plagued with vulnerabilities that allow perpetrators to exploit them for profit. The constant rise in the number of software weaknesses, coupled with the sophistication of modern adversaries, make the need for effective and adaptive defenses more critical than ever. In this talk, I will present my work on developing novel protection mechanisms and exploit prevention techniques that improve the security posture of commodity operating systems. In particular, I will discuss kGuard and XPFO, two projects whose goal is to harden contemporary OSes against attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in kernel code, without entailing additional software (e.g., hypervisor or VMM) or special hardware. In addition, I will talk about ret2dir: a new kernel exploitation technique that I developed, which uncovered how fundamental OS design practices and implementation decisions can significantly weaken the effectiveness of state of-the-art kernel protection mechanisms.


Vasileios (Vasilis) Kemerlis is a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University, working under the supervision of Angelos Keromytis. His research interests are in the areas of systems and network security, with a focus on automated software hardening and information-flow tracking. Currently, he works on kernel exploitation and defense. Vasilis holds a M.Phil (2013) and MS (2010) in Computer Science from Columbia University, and a BS (2006) in Computer Science from Athens University of Economics and Business.

Last updated: January 30, 2015