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CAPEC-8: Buffer Overflow in an API Call

Attack Pattern ID: 8
Abstraction: Detailed
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
This attack targets libraries or shared code modules which are vulnerable to buffer overflow attacks. An attacker who has access to an API may try to embed malicious code in the API function call and exploit a buffer overflow vulnerability in the function's implementation. All clients that make use of the code library thus become vulnerable by association. This has a very broad effect on security across a system, usually affecting more than one software process.
+ Likelihood Of Attack

High

+ Typical Severity

High

+ Relationships

The table(s) below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.

+ Relevant to the view "Mechanisms of Attack" (CAPEC-1000)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfStandard Attack PatternStandard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.100Overflow Buffers
PeerOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.46Overflow Variables and Tags
CanFollowStandard Attack PatternStandard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.69Target Programs with Elevated Privileges
+ Execution Flow
Experiment
  1. An attacker can call an API exposed by the target host.

  2. On the probing stage, the attacker injects malicious code using the API call and observes the results. The attacker's goal is to uncover a buffer overflow vulnerability.

Exploit
  1. The attacker finds a buffer overflow vulnerability, crafts malicious code and injects it through an API call. The attacker can at worst execute remote code on the target host.

+ Prerequisites
The target host exposes an API to the user.
One or more API functions exposed by the target host has a buffer overflow vulnerability.
+ Skills Required
[Level: Low]
An attacker can simply overflow a buffer by inserting a long string into an attacker-modifiable injection vector. The result can be a DoS.
[Level: High]
Exploiting a buffer overflow to inject malicious code into the stack of a software system or even the heap can require a higher skill level.
+ Consequences

The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.

ScopeImpactLikelihood
Availability
Unreliable Execution
Confidentiality
Integrity
Availability
Execute Unauthorized Commands
Confidentiality
Read Data
Integrity
Modify Data
+ Mitigations
Use a language or compiler that performs automatic bounds checking.
Use secure functions not vulnerable to buffer overflow.
If you have to use dangerous functions, make sure that you do boundary checking.
Compiler-based canary mechanisms such as StackGuard, ProPolice and the Microsoft Visual Studio /GS flag. Unless this provides automatic bounds checking, it is not a complete solution.
Use OS-level preventative functionality. Not a complete solution.
+ Example Instances
Attack Example: Libc in FreeBSD

A buffer overflow in the FreeBSD utility setlocale (found in the libc module) puts many programs at risk all at once.

Xtlib

A buffer overflow in the Xt library of the X windowing system allows local users to execute commands with root privileges.

+ References
[REF-1] G. Hoglund and G. McGraw. "Exploiting Software: How to Break Code". Addison-Wesley. 2004-02.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2014-06-23CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2018-07-31CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated References

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: July 31, 2018