Application of VMware VProbes to debugging of a segmentation based separation kernel
Irvine, Cynthia E.
Shifflett, David J.
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Debugging is a useful technique in all aspects of software development, including that of operating systems. Because they provide low level interfaces to the hardware, operating systems are particularly difficult to debug. There is little room to add abstraction between the computer hardware and the executing operating system software. Many debuggers are intimately tied to the system’s memory model, compiler, and loader. For specialized operating systems, a good debugger may require a focused development process. However, virtualization allows new tools to be introduced to support operating system debugging. This research explores the potential to use VMware VProbes to debug a Least Privilege Separation Kernel (LPSK) that is hosted as a guest operating system by the VMware virtual machine monitor. Several general tools were developed to help developers use VMware VProbes. In particular, a simple way to use the symbol table that makes references to memory easier to manage. As a result, the state of the target operating system can be inspected upon access to one or more memory addresses. The tools and techniques were tested on the LPSK; however, they may be applied to a wide range of operating systems hosted by VMware.
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