Publication
ICSE 2022
Conference paper

Hiding critical program components via ambiguous translation

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Abstract

Software systems may contain critical program components such as patented program logic or sensitive data. When those components are reverse-engineered by adversaries, it can cause significantly damage (e.g., financial loss or operational failures). While protecting critical program components (e.g., code or data) in software systems is of utmost importance, existing approaches, unfortunately, have two major weaknesses: (1) they can be reverse-engineered via various program analysis techniques and (2) when an adversary obtains a legitimate-looking critical program component, he or she can be sure that it is genuine. In this paper, we propose Ambitr, a novel technique that hides critical program components. The core of Ambitr is Ambiguous Translator that can generate the critical program components when the input is a correct secret key. The translator is ambiguous as it can accept any inputs and produces a number of legitimate-looking outputs, making it difficult to know whether an input is correct secret key or not. The executions of the translator when it processes the correct secret key and other inputs are also indistinguishable, making the analysis inconclusive. Our evaluation results show that static, dynamic and symbolic analysis techniques fail to identify the hidden information in Ambitr. We also demonstrate that manual analysis of Ambitr is extremely challenging.

Date

15 May 2022

Publication

ICSE 2022