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VULCON: A System for Vulnerability Prioritization, Mitigation, and Management

Vulnerability remediation is a critical task in operational software and network security management. In this article, an effective vulnerability management strategy, called VULCON (VULnerability CONtrol), is developed and evaluated. The strategy is based on two fundamental performance metrics: (1) time-to-vulnerability remediation (TVR) and (2)... (more)

Efficient Privacy-Preserving Matrix Factorization for Recommendation via Fully Homomorphic Encryption

There are recommendation systems everywhere in our daily life. The collection of personal data of... (more)

Technological and Human Factors of Malware Attacks: A Computer Security Clinical Trial Approach

The success (or failure) of malware attacks depends upon both technological and human factors. The most security-conscious users are susceptible to... (more)

A Video-based Attack for Android Pattern Lock

Pattern lock is widely used for identification and authentication on Android devices. This article presents a novel video-based side channel attack that can reconstruct Android locking patterns from video footage filmed using a smartphone. As a departure from previous attacks on pattern lock, this new attack does not require the camera to capture... (more)

Verifiable Graph Processing

We consider a scenario in which a data owner outsources storage of a large graph to an untrusted server; the server performs computations on this graph in response to queries from a client (whether the data owner or others), and the goal is to ensure verifiability of the returned results. Applying generic verifiable computation (VC) would... (more)

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About TOPS

ACM TOPS publishes high-quality research results in the fields of information and system security and privacy.  Studies addressing all aspects of these fields are welcomed, ranging from technologies, to systems and applications, to the crafting of policies.

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Forthcoming Articles
ISOTOP: Auditing Virtual Networks Isolation Across Cloud Layers in OpenStack

Multi-tenancy in the cloud is a double-edged sword. While it enables cost-effective resource sharing, it increases security risks for the hosted applications. Indeed, multiplexing virtual resources belonging to different tenants on the same physical substrate may lead to critical security concerns such as cross-tenants data leakage and denial of service. Particularly, virtual networks isolation failures are among the foremost security concerns in the cloud. To remedy these, automated tools are needed to verify security mechanisms compliance with relevant security policies and standards. However, auditing virtual networks isolation is challenging due to the dynamic and layered nature of the cloud. Particularly, inconsistencies in network isolation mechanisms across cloud stack layers, namely the infrastructure management and the implementation layers, may lead to virtual networks isolation breaches that are undetectable at a single layer. In this paper, we propose an automated framework for auditing consistent isolation between virtual networks in the cloud spanning over overlay and layer 2 by considering both cloud layers views. To capture the semantics of the audited data and its relation to consistent isolation requirement, we devise a multi-layered model for data related to each cloud-stack layers view. Furthermore, to show the feasibility of our approach, we integrate our auditing system into OpenStack, and present our experimental results on assessing several properties related to virtual network isolation and consistency. Our results show that our approach can be successfully used to detect virtual network isolation breaches for large data centers in reasonable time.

Analysis of Reflexive Eye Movements for Fast Replay-Resistant Biometric Authentication

Eye tracking devices have recently become increasingly popular as an interface between people and consumer-grade electronic devices. Due to the fact that human eyes are fast, responsive, and carry information unique to an individual, analyzing person's gaze is particularly attractive for effortless biometric authentication. Unfortunately, previous proposals for gaze-based authentication systems either suffer from high error rates, or require long authentication times. We build upon the fact that some eye movements can be reflexively and predictably triggered, and develop an interactive visual stimulus for elicitation of reflexive eye movements that supports the extraction of reliable biometric features in a matter of seconds, without requiring any memorization or cognitive effort on the part of the user. As an important benefit, our stimulus can be made unique for every authentication attempt and thus incorporated in a challenge-response biometric authentication system. This allows us to prevent replay attacks, which are possibly the most applicable attack vectors against biometric authentication. Using a gaze tracking device, we build a prototype of our system and perform a series of systematic user experiments with 30 participants from the general public. We thoroughly analyze various system parameters and evaluate the performance and security guarantees under several different attack scenarios. The results show that our system surpasses existing gaze-based authentication methods both in achieved equal error rates (6.3%) and significantly lower authentication times (5 seconds).

Characterizing the Security of the SMS Ecosystem with Public Gateways

Recent years have seen the Short Message Service (SMS) become a critical component of the security infrastructure, assisting with tasks including identity verification and second-factor authentication. At the same time, this messaging infrastructure has become dramatically more open and connected to public networks than ever before. However, the implications of this openness, the security practices of benign services, and the malicious misuse of this ecosystem are not well understood. In this paper, we provide a comprehensive longitudinal study to answer these questions, analyzing over 900,000 text messages sent to public online SMS gateways over the course of 28 months. From this data, we were able to uncover the geographical distribution of spam messages, studied SMS as a transmission medium of malicious content, and find that changes in benign and malicious behaviors in the SMS ecosystem have been minimal during our collection period. Additionally, we identified a range of services sending extremely sensitive plaintext data, implementing low entropy solutions for one-use codes, and behaviors indicating that public gateways are primarily used for evading account creation policies that require verified phone numbers. This latter finding has significant implications for combating phone-verified account fraud and demonstrates that such evasion will continue to be difficult to detect and prevent.

Kernel Protection against Just-In-Time Code Reuse

The abundance of memory corruption and disclosure vulnerabilities in kernel code necessitates the deployment of hardening techniques to prevent privilege escalation attacks. As stricter memory isolation mechanisms between the kernel and user space become commonplace, attackers increasingly rely on code reuse techniques to exploit kernel vulnerabilities. Contrary to similar attacks in more restrictive settings, like in web browsers, in kernel exploitation, non-privileged local adversaries have great flexibility in abusing memory disclosure vulnerabilities to dynamically discover, or infer, the location of code snippets in order to construct code-reuse payloads. Recent studies have shown that the coupling of code diversification with the enforcement of a "read XOR execute" (R^X) memory safety policy is an effective defense against the exploitation of userland software, but so far this approach has not been applied for the protection of the kernel itself. In this paper, we fill this gap by presenting kR^X: a kernel hardening scheme based on execute-only memory and code diversification. We study a previously unexplored point in the design space, where a hypervisor or a super-privileged component is not required. Implemented mostly as a set of GCC plugins, kR^X is readily applicable to x86 Linux kernels (both 32- and 64-bit) and can benefit from hardware support (segmentation on x86, MPX on x86-64) to optimize performance. In full protection mode, kR^X incurs a low runtime overhead of 4.04%, which drops to 2.32% when MPX is available, and 1.32% when memory segmentation is in use.

KIST: Kernel-Informed Socket Transport for Tor

Tor's growing popularity and user diversity has resulted in network performance problems that are not well understood, though performance is understood to be a significant factor in Tor's security. A large body of work has attempted to solve performance problems without a complete understanding of where congestion occurs in Tor. In this paper, we first study congestion in Tor at individual relays as well as along the entire end-to-end Tor path and find that congestion occurs almost exclusively in egress kernel socket buffers. We then analyze Tor's socket interactions and discover two major contributors to Tor's congestion: Tor writes sockets sequentially, and Tor writes as much as possible to each socket. To improve Tor's performance, we design, implement, and test KIST: a new socket management algorithm that uses real-time kernel information to dynamically compute the amount to write to each socket while considering all circuits of all writable sockets when scheduling cells. We find that, in the medians, KIST reduces circuit congestion by over 30 percent, reduces network latency by 18 percent, and increases network throughput by nearly 10 percent. We also find that client and relay performance with KIST improves as network load and packet loss rates increase. We analyze the security of KIST and find an acceptable performance and security trade-off, as it does not significantly affect the outcome of well-known latency and throughput attacks. KIST has been merged into Tor version 0.3.2.1-alpha and is configured as the default socket scheduling algorithm.

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