Uninformed: Informative Information for the Uninformed

Vol 7» 2007.May

Reducing the Effective Entropy of GS Cookies
This paper describes a technique that can be used to reduce the effective entropy in a given GS cookie by roughly 15 bits. This reduction is made possible because GS uses a number of weak entropy sources that can, with varying degrees of accuracy, be calculated by an attacker. It is important to note, however, that the ability to calculate the values of these sources for an arbitrary cookie currently relies on an attacker having local access to the machine, such as through the local console or through terminal services. This effectively limits the use of this technique to stack-based local privilege escalation vulnerabilities. In addition to the general entropy reduction technique, this paper discusses the amount of effective entropy that exists in services that automatically start during system boot. It is hypothesized that these services may have more predictable states of entropy due to the relative consistency of the boot process. While the techniques described in this paper do not illustrate a complete break of GS, any inherent weakness can have disastrous consequences given that GS is a static, compile-time security solution. It is not possible to simply distribute a patch. Instead, applications must be recompiled to take advantage of any security improvements. In that vein, the paper proposes some solutions that could be applied to address the problems that are outlined.