Compiler-assisted Adaptive Software Testing

Theofilos Petsios

Compiler-assisted Adaptive Software Testing
Petsios, Theofilos
Thesis Advisor(s):
Bellovin, Steven M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Computer Science
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Modern software is becoming increasingly complex and is plagued with vulnerabilities that are constantly exploited by attackers. The vast numbers of bugs found in security-critical systems and the diversity of errors presented in commercial off-the-shelf software require effective, scalable testing frameworks. Unfortunately, the current testing ecosystem is heavily fragmented, with the majority of toolchains targeting limited classes of errors and applications without offering provably strong guarantees. With software codebases continuously becoming more diverse and complex, the large-scale deployment of monolithic, non-adaptive analysis engines is likely to increase the aforementioned fragmentation. Instead, modern software testing requires adaptive, hybrid techniques that target errors selectively. This dissertation argues that adopting context-aware analyses will enable us to set the foundations for retargetable testing frameworks while further increasing the accuracy and extensibility of existing toolchains. To this end, we initially examine how compiler analyses can become context-aware, prioritizing certain errors over others of the same type. As a use case of our proposed approach, we extend a state-of-the-art compiler's integer error detection pipeline to suppress reports of benign errors by up to 89% in real-world workloads, while allowing for reporting of serious errors. Subsequently, we demonstrate how compiler-based instrumentation can be utilized by feedback-driven evolutionary fuzzers to provide multifaceted analyses targeting broader classes of bugs. In this direction, we present differential diversity (δ-diversity), we propose a generic methodology for offering state-aware guidance in feedback-driven frameworks, and we demonstrate how to retrofit state-of-the-art fuzzers to target broader classes of errors. We provide two such prototype implementations: NEZHA, the first differential generic fuzzer capable of handling logic bugs, as well as SlowFuzz, the first generic fuzzer targeting complexity vulnerabilities. We applied both prototypes on production software, and demonstrate their effectiveness. We found that NEZHA discovered hundreds of logic discrepancies across a wide variety of applications (SSL/TLS libraries, parsers, etc.), while SlowFuzz successfully generated inputs triggering slowdowns in complex, real-world software, including zip parsers, regular expression libraries, and hash table implementations.
Computer science
Compilers (Computer programs)
Computer software--Testing
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Suggested Citation:
Theofilos Petsios, , Compiler-assisted Adaptive Software Testing, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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