Additional kernel observer: privilege escalation attack prevention mechanism focusing on system call privilege changes

Toshihiro Yamauchi, Yohei Akao, Ryota Yoshitani, Yuichi Nakamura, Masaki Hashimoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Cyberattacks, especially attacks that exploit operating system vulnerabilities, have been increasing in recent years. In particular, if administrator privileges are acquired by an attacker through a privilege escalation attack, the attacker can operate the entire system and cause serious damage. In this paper, we propose an additional kernel observer (AKO) that prevents privilege escalation attacks that exploit operating system vulnerabilities. We focus on the fact that a process privilege can be changed only by specific system calls. AKO monitors privilege information changes during system call processing. If AKO detects a privilege change after system call processing, whereby the invoked system call does not originally change the process privilege, AKO regards the change as a privilege escalation attack and applies countermeasures against it. AKO can therefore prevent privilege escalation attacks. Introducing the proposed method in advance can prevent this type of attack by changing any process privilege that was not originally changed in a system call, regardless of the vulnerability type. In this paper, we describe the design and implementation of AKO for Linux x86 64-bit. Moreover, we show that AKO can be expanded to prevent the falsification of various data in the kernel space. Then, we present an expansion example that prevents the invalidation of Security-Enhanced Linux. Finally, our evaluation results show that AKO is effective against privilege escalation attacks, while maintaining low overhead.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-473
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Information Security
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Linux kernel vulnerabilities
  • Non-control-data attack
  • Operating system
  • Privilege escalation attack prevention
  • System security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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