Survey of Control-Flow Integrity Techniques for Embedded and Real-Time Embedded Systems

11/22/2021
by   Tanmaya Mishra, et al.
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Computing systems, including real-time embedded systems, are becoming increasingly connected to allow for more advanced and safer operation. Such embedded systems are resource-constrained, such as lower processing capabilities, as compared to general purpose computing systems like desktops or servers. However, allowing external interfaces to such embedded systems increases their exposure to attackers. With an increase in attacks against embedded systems ranging from home appliances to industrial control systems operating critical equipment that have hard real-time requirements, it is imperative that defense mechanisms be created that explicitly consider such resource and real-time constraints constraints. Control-flow integrity (CFI) is a family of defense mechanisms that prevent attackers from modifying the flow of execution. We survey CFI techniques, ranging from the basic to state-of-the-art, that are built for embedded systems and real-time embedded systems and find that there is a dearth, especially for real-time embedded systems, of CFI mechanisms. We then present open challenges to the community to help drive research in this domain.

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