Visualization and analysis of assembly code in an integrated comprehension environment

Date

2013-06-26

Authors

Pucsek, Dean W.

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Abstract

Computing has reached a point where it is visible in almost every aspect of one’s daily activities. Consider, for example, a typical household. There will be a desktop computer, game console, tablet computer, and smartphones built using different types of processors and instruction sets. To support the pervasive and heterogeneous nature of computing there has been many advances in programming languages, hardware features, and increasingly complex software systems. One task that is shared by all people who work with software is the need to develop a concrete understanding of foreign code so that tasks such as bug fixing, feature implementation, and security audits can be conducted. To do this tools are needed to help present the code in a manner that is conducive to comprehension and allows for knowledge to be transferred. Current tools for program comprehension are aimed at high-level languages and do not provide a platform for assembly code comprehension that is extensible both in terms of the supported environment as well as the supported analysis. This thesis presents ICE, an Integrated Comprehension Environment, that is de- veloped to support comprehension of assembly code while remaining extensible. ICE is designed to receive data from external tools, such as disassemblers and debuggers, which is then presented in a series of visualizations: Cartographer, Tracks, and a Control Flow Graph. Cartographer displays an interactive function call graph while Tracks displays a navigable sequence diagram. Support for new visualizations is provided through the extensible implementation enabling analysts to develop visual- izations tailored to their needs. Evaluation of ICE is completed through a series of case studies that demonstrate different aspects of ICE relative to currently available tools.

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Keywords

assembly code, visualization, reverse engineering, software engineering

Citation