A paper "ret2dir: Rethinking Kernel Isolation" was released two years ago. It claimed that ret2dir can bypass modern mitigations including KERNEXEC/UDEREF/SMEP/SMAP/PXN. The author proposed a defensive solution is called eXclusive Page Frame Ownership (XPFO) in the paper. But it was not merge into the vanilla kernel back then. Some guys are trying to merge it again lately.
ret2dir might be a dramatic exploit technique can be useful to bypass mitigations. But it's not that "perfect" when it comes to PaX/Grsecurity. KERNEXEC does much more things than SMEP/PXN simply does not allow kernel code execution from userspace. I'd like to share a few things( truth?):
1, Even under kernel <= 3.9, the kernel patched with PaX/Grsecurity can prevent ret2dir attack without enabling any features. ret2dir only works if a few highly situational conditions satisfied. More detail? Plz ask those who did the tricks;-)
2, The fully ret2dir attack is based on PFN's information. The paper reveals two approaches to get the information:
1) simply read the info from /proc
2) physmap spraying
Unfortunately, all exploits we've found( public exploits & unpacked from malwares) are using the 1st approach in past 18 months. The evidence revealed that all other ret2dir exploits are copycats of these two ret2dir exploit examples( exploit writers aren't work hard?):
IMOHO, ROP is the only option left for ret2dir attack. Otherwise, creating a ROP chains is not that easy on PaX/Grsecurity kernel even without RAP, isn't it?