Memory Safety Preservation for WebAssembly

Vassena, Marco and Patrignani, Marco
(2020) Memory Safety Preservation for WebAssembly.


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WebAssembly (Wasm) is a next-generation portable compi- lation target for deploying applications written in high-level languages on the web. In order to protect their memory from untrusted code, web browser engines confine the execution of compiled Wasm programs in a memory-safe sand- box. Unfortunately, classic memory-safety vulnerabilities (e.g., buffer overflows and use-after-free) can still corrupt the memory within the sandbox and allow Wasm code to mount severe attacks. To prevent these attacks, we study a class of secure compilers that eliminate (different kinds of) memory safety violations. Following a rigorous approach, we discuss memory safety in terms of hypersafety properties, which let us identify suitable secure compilation critera for memory-safety-preserving compilers. We conjecture that, barring some restrictions at module boundaries, the existing security mechanisms of Wasm may suffice to enforce memory-safety preservation, in the short term. In the long term, we observe that certain features proposed in the design of a memory-safe variant of Wasm could allow compilers to lift these restrictions and enforce relaxed forms of memory safety.


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