January 23, 2021

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Declarative Demand-Driven Reverse Engineering. (arXiv:2101.04718v1 [cs.PL])

Binary reverse engineering is a challenging task because it often
necessitates reasoning using both domain-specific knowledge (e.g.,
understanding entrypoint idioms common to an ABI) and logical inference (e.g.,
reconstructing interprocedural control flow). To help perform these tasks,
reverse engineers often use toolkits (such as IDA Pro or Ghidra) that allow
them to interactively explicate properties of binaries. We argue that deductive
databases serve as a natural abstraction for interfacing between
visualization-based binary analysis tools and high-performance logical
inference engines that compute facts about binaries. In this paper, we present
a vision for the future in which reverse engineers use a visualization-based
tool to understand binaries while simultaneously querying a logical-inference
engine to perform arbitrarily-complex deductive inference tasks. We call our
vision declarative demand-driven reverse engineering (D^3RE for short), and
sketch a formal semantics whose goal is to mediate interaction between a
logical-inference engine (such Souffle) and a reverse engineering tool. We
describe aprototype tool, d3re, which are using to explore the D^3RE vision.
While still a prototype, we have used d3re to reimplement several common
querying tasks on binaries. Our evaluation demonstrates that d3re enables both
better performance and more succinct implementation of these common RE tasks.