Proceedings of ISP RAS

Using ABI for Virtual Machines Introspection

N.I. Fursova (NovSU, Velikiy Novgorod), P.M. Dovgalyuk (NovSU, Velikiy Novgorod), I.A. Vasiliev (NovSU, Velikiy Novgorod)


The paper proposes an approach to introspection of virtual machines using the applications binary interface. The purpose of the method is to get information about the system, while having a minimum knowledge about its internal structure. Our system is based on QEMU emulator and has a modular structure.
Existing approaches (RTKDSM, DECAF) receive data from the operating system using the kernel structures. Those instruments have to store a large number of data profiles, because all addresses and offsets in the kernel structures vary from version to version. We offer the use of the rarely changing application binary interfaces, such as calling conventions and the numbers and parameters of system calls. The idea of the method is to intercept system functions and read parameters and return values.
Processor uses a special instruction to implement a system call. We expand QEMU with instrumentation engine, so we are able to monitor each executing instruction and to filter desired ones. In the event of a system call, we pass the control to the detector of system calls, that checks the number of occurred call and according to it decides to which plugin the job should be redirected to. In the mechanism of system calls interception, it is important not only to determine that the call occurred, but also to correctly determine its completion. That is needed to obtain the values of output parameters and return values.
To determine the end of the system call, the system also has special instructions, but we need to collate the beginning of the call to its end correctly. And to do so we are using the current context.  
Thus, we have implemented monitoring of file operations and processes, and created a prototype of API functions monitor. We plan to expand the set of plugins for analysis and monitoring.


introspection; virtual machines; dynamic analysis; system calls


Proceedings of the Institute for System Programming, vol. 27, issue 6, 2015, pp. 159-168.

ISSN 2220-6426 (Online), ISSN 2079-8156 (Print).

DOI: 10.15514/ISPRAS-2015-27(6)-11

Full text of the paper in pdf (in Russian) Back to the contents of the volume