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Cryptography, Computer security, Programming languages (Computers)


We propose a new formal criterion for secure compilation, giving strong end-to-end security guarantees for software components written in unsafe, low-level languages with C-style undefined behavior. Our criterion is the first to model dynamic compromise in a system of mutually distrustful components running with least privilege. Each component is protected from all the others—in particular, from components that have encountered undefined behavior and become compromised. Each component receives secure compilation guarantees up to the point when it becomes compromised, after which an attacker can take complete control over the component and use any of its privileges to attack the remaining uncompromised components. More precisely, we ensure that dynamically compromised components cannot break the safety properties of the system at the target level any more than equally privileged components without undefined behavior already could in the source language.

To illustrate this model, we build a secure compilation chain for an unsafe language with buffers, procedures, and components. We compile it to a simple RISC abstract machine with builtin compartmentalization and provide thorough proofs, many of them machine-checked in Coq, showing that the compiler satisfies our secure compilation criterion. Finally, we show that the protection guarantees offered by the compartmentalized abstract machine can be achieved at the machine-code level using either software fault isolation or a tag-based reference monitor.

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