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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Automata-based Model Counting String Constraint Solver for Vulnerability Analysis

  • Author(s): AYDIN, Abdulbaki
  • Advisor(s): Bultan, Tevfik
  • et al.

Most common vulnerabilities in modern software applications are due to errors in string manipulation code. String constraint solvers are essential components of program analysis techniques for detecting and repairing vulnerabilities that are due to string manipulation errors. In this dissertation, we present an automata-based string constraint solver for vulnerability analysis of string manipulating programs.

Given a string constraint, we generate an automaton that accepts all solutions that satisfy the constraint. Our string constraint solver can also map linear arithmetic constraints to automata in order to handle constraints on string lengths. By integrating our string constraint solver to a symbolic execution tool, we can check for string manipulation errors in programs. Recently, quantitative and probabilistic program analyses techniques have been proposed which require counting the number of solutions to string constraints. We extend our string constraint solver with model counting capability based on the observation that, using an automata-based constraint representation, model counting reduces to path counting, which can be solved precisely. Our approach is parameterized in the sense that, we do not

assume a finite domain size during automata construction, resulting in a potentially infinite set of solutions, and our model counting approach works for arbitrarily large bounds.

We have implemented our approach in a tool called ABC (Automata-Based model Counter) using a constraint language that is compatible with the SMTLIB language specification used by satifiabilty-modula-theories solvers. This SMTLIB interface facilitates integration of our constraint solver with existing symbolic execution tools. We demonstrate the effectiveness of ABC on a large set of string constraints extracted from real-world web applications.

We also present automata-based testing techniques for string manipulating programs. A vulnerability signature is a characterization of all user inputs that can be used to exploit a vulnerability. Automata-based static string analysis techniques allow automated computation of vulnerability signatures represented as automata. Given a vulnerability signature represented as an automaton, we present algorithms for test case generation based on state, transition, and path coverage. These automatically

generated test cases can be used to test applications that are not analyzable statically, and to discover attack strings that demonstrate how the vulnerabilities can be exploited. We experimentally compare

different coverage criteria and demonstrate the effectiveness of our test generation approach.

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