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Blanket Execution: Dynamic Similarity Testing for Program Binaries and Components

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journal contribution
posted on 01.08.2014, 00:00 by Manuel Egele, Maverick Woo, Peter Chapman, David BrumleyDavid Brumley

Matching function binaries—the process of identifying similar functions among binary executables—is a challenge that underlies many security applications such as malware analysis and patch-based exploit generation. Recent work tries to establish semantic similarity based on static analysis methods. Unfortunately, these methods do not perform well if the compared binaries are produced by different compiler toolchains or optimization levels. In this work, we propose blanket execution, a novel dynamic equivalence testing primitive that achieves complete coverage by overriding the intended program logic. Blanket execution collects the side effects of functions during execution under a controlled randomized environment. Two functions are deemed similar, if their corresponding side effects, as observed under the same environment, are similar too.

We implement our blanket execution technique in a system called BLEX. We evaluate BLEX rigorously against the state of the art binary comparison tool BinDiff. When comparing optimized and un-optimized executables from the popular GNU coreutils package, BLEX outperforms BinDiff by up to 3:5 times in correctly identifying similar functions. BLEX also outperforms BinDiff if the binaries have been compiled by different compilers. Using the functionality in BLEX, we have also built a binary search engine that identifies similar functions across optimization boundaries. Averaged over all indexed functions, our search engine ranks the correct matches among the top ten results 77% of the time.


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Copyright 2014 USENIX



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