ROP and ROPGadget posted November 2014
This morning I had a course on Return Oriented Programming given by Jonathan Salwan, a classmate of mine also famous inventor of RopGadget.
A lot of interesting things there. Apparently it's still kind of impossible to completely protect your C code against that kind of attack. Even with all the ASLR, PIE, NX bit and other protections... There is also an awesome lecture about ROP on Coursera I linked to in the previous post here.
Basically, since you can't execute code in the stack, and since the addresses of libraries are randomized because of ASLR, you can find bits of codes ending with a return (called gadgets) and chain them since you control the stack (thus the saved EIPs). What I learned by doing was that it gets complicated if it's 64bits (since a lot of address will have a lot of 0x00 and you can't point to those doing a buffer overflow through a strcpy or something similar) and you won't get a lot of those gadgets if you have dynamically loaded libraries. Static libraries are loaded in the .text section (which is executable of course), so that's all good. Also a good way to store strings of data are in the .data section since it is untouched by the randomization contrarily to the stack.
A lot of researches is done on the subject and new tools like RopGadget are coming, using an old concept (but still actively researched): the SAT solvers. There seems to be a problem though, those SAT solvers yield a set of gadgets to be used for some action you want to accomplish with your shellcode, but you have to do the work of putting them in the right order.
This is what I took from that talk, you can question the guy if that interests you!