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Bootstrapping SMT binary analysis tools by analyzing emulator binaries

Vulnerability Development
45

SMT solvers are nifty, and pretty easy to apply to simple or repetitive binary analysis problems. Implementing instruction semantics for a specific branch structure, or the subset of arithmetic operations used by a specific obfuscation pass has a pretty low time investment. This changes when trying to build more generic tools that can be re-used or run at scale. Binary analysis projects with accurate IR semantics for a wide range of instructions are usually large efforts, and their verification quality falls off for instructions and architectures that didn't see extensive use. What if we want to start from scratch and stay simple? * Emulators and bytecode interpreters contain executable instruction specifications. * Code for executing a single instruction tends to be short and loop-free. * Our endgame is to use SMT tools to reason about short, loop-free code. As such, we'll walk through the process of taking an emulator cross-compiled for its own architecture, and using a manually-written SMT-LIB specification of instruction semantics to extract the instruction semantics implemented by the interpreter's decode-and-execute code. Then, cross-compiling a bunch of other emulators and interpreters, and using the first extracted specification to extract specifications for completely different architectures. I will also examine the use of constraint solving to explore differences between instruction semantics specifications. This provides assurance of their accuracy, but also discovers edge cases between targets. The overall goal is to get good at deriving SMT formulas for code that looks like a non-JIT bytecode interpreter's step function, without depending on any specific existing binary analysis toolchains.

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Rated 5 - 9 reviewers

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