Fast Byte-Granularity Software Fault Isolation

ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP) |

Published by Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.

Bugs in kernel extensions remain one of the main causes of poor operating system reliability despite proposed techniques that isolate extensions in separate protection domains to contain faults. We believe that previous fault isolation techniques are not widely used because they cannot isolate existing kernel extensions with low overhead on standard hardware. This is a hard problem because these extensions communicate with the kernel using a complex interface and they communicate frequently. We present BGI (Byte-Granularity Isolation), a new software fault isolation technique that addresses this problem. BGI uses efficient byte-granularity memory protection to isolate kernel extensions in separate protection domains that share the same address space. BGI ensures type safety for kernel objects and it can detect common types of errors inside domains. Our results show that BGI is practical: it can isolate Windows drivers without requiring changes to the source code and it introduces a CPU overhead between 0 and 16%. BGI can also find bugs during driver testing. We found 28 new bugs in widely used Windows drivers.