DIVINE: DIscovering Variables IN Executables

Gogul Balakrishnan and Thomas Reps
University of Wisconsin

This paper addresses the problem of recovering variable-like entities when analyzing executables in the absence of debugging information. We show that variable-like entities can be recovered by iterating Value-Set Analysis (VSA), a combined numeric-analysis and pointer-analysis algorithm, and Aggregate Structure Identification, an algorithm to identify the structure of aggregates. Our initial experiments show that the technique is successful in correctly identifying 88% of the local variables and 89% of the fields of heap-allocated objects. Previous techniques recovered 83% of the local variables, but 0% of the fields of heap-allocated objects. Moreover, the values computed by VSA using the variables recovered by our algorithm would allow any subsequent analysis to do a better job of interpreting instructions that use indirect addressing to access arrays and heap-allocated data objects: indirect operands can be resolved better at 4% to 39% of the sites of writes and up to 8% of the sites of reads. (These are the memory-access operations for which it is the most difficult for an analyzer to obtain useful results.)

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