headshot of Mathias, smiling

Speaker: Mathias Payer

Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Time: 2:00 - 3:00 pm

Location: HFH 1132

Host: Giovanni Vigna

Title: Tales of Program Crashes and Vulnerabilities

All software has bugs and some of these bugs can be exploited by an adversary to gain unintended access to private data and computation. We study vulnerabilities along three dimensions. First, developing techniques to quickly discover vulnerabilities allows developers to fix bugs before code is being deployed to users. Here we embrace incompleteness to scale to the massive size of current software. Second, creating mitigations makes exploitation of any remaining bugs harder, increasing the cost for adversaries. Third, researching novel compartmentalization mechanisms breaks large monolithic software into smaller fault domains to further limit adversaries.

In this talk, we will give an overview of the software security landscape in general, and our three research dimensions in particular. We highlight why each area is important and relies on the others. The overarching goal is to increase security guarantees
of software systems by fixing bugs early, prohibiting adversaries from exploiting remaining bugs, and restricting the power they get through any component.

Mathias Payer is a security researcher and professor at EPFL, leading the HexHive group. His research focuses on protecting applications in the presence of vulnerabilities, with a focus on memory corruption and type violations. He is interested in software security, system security, binary exploitation, effective mitigations, fault isolation/privilege separation, strong sanitization, and software testing (fuzzing) using a combination of binary analysis and compiler-based techniques. He was awarded both the ERC Starting Grant and the SNSF Eccellenza to foster research in software security (each of which is comparable to the NSF CAREER).